Russia will begin testing a “stealthier” version of its Okhotnik heavy strike drone in July, RIA Novosti revealed, citing a source.
The second version of the Sukhoi Design Bureau drone was rolled out on 14 December. It will be serially produced after the tests are complete and is expected to be in service by 2024.
Both versions include an AL-41F engine. However, the second version features a retracted afterburner — unlike the prototype’s protruding nozzle — allowing it to “fit into the contours of the fuselage,” reducing “its visibility in the infrared and radar ranges.”
Okhotnik engine developer Motor Design Bureau earlier revealed that the aircraft’s “flat nozzle” would “reduce the drone’s signature for enemy heat-seeking missiles.”
The drone test flew for the first time in August 2019 under operator control. A month later, it took to the sky automatically in a wingman role with the fifth generation Su-57 fighter.
“These planes and drones can interact not only with each other but also in various types of combat formations,” deputy chairman of the Board of the Russian Military-Industrial Commission, Andrey Yelchaninov, said in an interview.
A twin-seat version of the aircraft is reportedly being developed, capable of controlling four Okhotniks simultaneously.
The 14-meter (46-foot), 20-ton aircraft has a top speed of 1,000 kph (621 mph). It has since test flown with simulated air-to-air missiles and successfully dropped a half-ton unguided aerial bomb at a ground target.