Sixth-Generation Aircraft to Operate Alongside Su-57
The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced that the maiden flight of the Sukhoi S-70 OKHOTNIK-B (HUNTER) unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) took place on 3 August at the Chkalov State Flight Test Centre near Akhtubinsk.
The 20+ minute test flight, described as “highly successful” by observers, tested takeoff, landing and basic flight manoeuvres. It follows jump tests that took place soon after rollout last year: the OKHOTNIK-B has been in development since 2012 and estimated programme costs to date have exceeded 1.6 billion rubles (€22 million).
Bearing a strong resemblance to Northrop Grumman’s X-47B, the OKHOTNIK-B is based largely on the technologies derived from the Mikoyan (MiG) SKAT programme and incorporates lessons learned from development of the fifth-generation Sukhoi Su-57 fighter, Western observers told MON. The UCAV, described by the MoD as “sixth-generation,” is apparently intended to work alongside the Su-57 in a ‘manned-unmanned team’ arrangement as yet to be defined. Weighing in the 20-25t class and capable of speeds approaching 1,400 km/h, the aircraft has been designed primarily as a combat air vehicle, but should be capable of carrying sophisticated intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance (ISR) sensors also.
Details of the UCAV are few, but analysts have been quick to point to the multiple inlets and unshielded engine exhaust as indicators of a lower priority being given to the aircraft’s low-observable (stealth) characteristics by its designers. This conclusion is somewhat reinforced by the (admittedly low-quality) video of the test flight circulating on the internet, which reveals relatively high engine noise levels.