An official Russian Ministry of Defense television program that was aired recently on TV Zvezda has given the public a rare inside look at the Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik unmanned combat air vehicle, or UCAV, and how it may further evolve in the future.
According to Joseph Trevithick at the War Zone, there appears to have been plenty of work gone into the next-generation aircraft, which was first showcased as a highly anticipated demonstrator in 2019.
“This includes new views of various features on the drone, including its internal payload bays and the control setup that operators use to fly it, along with behind-the-scenes looks at various aspects of its design and manufacturing process,” he writes.
What really is striking from the TV footage is just how large the UCAV really is.
“TV Zvezda’s reporter says that Okhotnik is smaller than Sukhoi’s Su-57 Felon advanced combat jet. However, a clip where he walks from the wing of one of those manned aircraft onto the drone shows that the size difference, especially in wingspan, is minimal,” Trevithick says.
“The particular Su-57 seen in this portion of the segment, and others, is one that has been used in various testing in cooperation with the S-70. Among other things, the production versions of the Okhotnik are expected to eventually operate as semi-autonomous ‘loyal wingmen’ networked together with Felons,” he continues.
Exterior and Internal Bays
As for the drone’s exterior, the upper body is “covered in various intakes and exhausts, as well as antennas, and a forward-facing camera system under the central part of the forward fuselage.”
“We also get a look at the S-70’s internal bays, which TV Zvezda’s reporter said the channel was prohibited from filming inside. It’s unclear what, if any, weapons or other internal payloads have been flight tested on this initial example of the Okhotnik so far, but there were reports that the drone had carried some kind of air-to-air missile surrogate during an experiment late last year,” Trevithick writes.
Help From Su-57
According to an official from Sukhoi, Su-57’s technology and components were highly leveraged for the eventual development of the S-70.
“Sukhoi says the S-70 is expected to change significantly, inside and out. … The most notable expected difference will be the replacement of the exposed rear engine exhaust with a shrouded one, as has been seen previously on models. The intake on those models is also revised compared to what is seen on the Okhotnik that is currently flying. The production examples are also expected to make significant use of composite materials. This would all, at least in principle, help reduce the unmanned aircraft’s radar signature,” Trevithick notes.
“It’s also worth noting that it would be highly unlikely that the expected new exhaust configuration on the production-representative S-70s would be able to accommodate an afterburner. Sukhoi representatives did specifically tell TV Zvezda that the UCAV was not expected to be overly fast or maneuverable, relying more on its stealthy characteristics to successfully complete its assigned missions,” he adds.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.