There are images floating on the Internet, rumored to be of the Russian Sukhoi ‘Okhotnik’ (Hunter) heavy strike drone. Reportedly, this unmanned strike drone is undergoing development since 2011. Okhotnik has been designed to take out targets on the ground, air defenses and headquarter units, thus providing support to manned aircraft.
The images were caught on Russian social media where the contraption is basically a cockpit-less, single-engine flying wing aircraft. The drone has been developed for stealth, but as per the images, it would appear that particular features pertaining to stealth are missing. The Okhotnik appears to be studded with antennas for testing purposes, and its engine nozzle is exposed and unshrouded.
It has been said that eventually Okhotnik will make use of composite materials and will also feature an anti-radar skin coating for lowering its radar signature. The images also depict a heat blur behind its engine, radiating upward, clearly an indication that the aircraft’s turbofan engine is active.
The drone is officially called Udarno-Razvedyvatelnyi Bespilotnyi Kompleks, or ‘Strike-Reconnaissance Unmanned Complex.’ For the uninitiated, the word complex is the Russian equivalent of calling a weapon or equipment as a system in the ‘West.’ Okhotnik has been designed as a 20-ton combat aircraft. This is an amazing and impressive feat since the American F/A-18E/F Super Hornet weighs in at 16-ton empty and also features a cockpit and life-support systems for a pilot.
The Russian government entered into a development deal with the Sukhoi Design Bureau in 2011. At that time, the drone was called a ‘sixth-generation aircraft’ that would be powered by two non-afterburning Klimov RD-33MK engines or a single Sukhoi Su-57 engine. With the pictures that have surfaced on the Internet, it seems that Okhotnik took the latter route. It has been reported that the Okhotnik has a top speed of 621 mph.
The Russian government’s TASS news bureau reported on a military aviation expert stating that, ‘Probably, the Okhotnik has been designed to accomplish missions similar to the assignments set for U.S. UAVs—destroying enemy air-defense systems, communications, command and control posts in situations when the use of aircraft is associated with considerable risks for crews.’ This was in July 2018.
The Okhotnik development has been carried out at the Novosibirsk-based Chkalov Aviation Plant, and according to the Russian state media, the runway tests had been taking place since Thanksgiving last year. It has also been reported that the flights will commence in Spring 2019.