The second prototype is supposed to come with several updates, including a better engine and an overall stealthier design.
The Sukhoi-70 Okhotnik
The second S-70 Okhotnik—which means “hunter” in Russian—rolled out of the Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association (NAPO) in freezing southwestern Siberia. The Sukhoi design bureau designs and builds its drones in NAPO, which is located far enough from any prying eyes.
The exact specifications for the drone are unknown. But to be effective in its intended role, the S-70 Okhotnik will have to have a good operational range (upwards of 3,000 miles) and a sufficient weapons payload (upward of six tons).
“The roll-out of the UAV marks the completion of the assembly of the product as a whole, equipping it with all the necessary onboard equipment in accordance with the requirements for the aircraft, and the transition to complex ground tests to prepare for the first flight,” Russian Deputy Minister of Defense Alexei Krivoruchko said during the revealing ceremony for the S-70 Okhotnik.
The S-70 Okhotnik is a large aircraft. When put beside the Su-57, Russia’s only 5th generation fighter jet, the unmanned aerial combat vehicle is only a few inches smaller than the fighter jet.
Russian officials predict that the S-70 Okhotnik will be done with all the pre-production evaluations and tests within 2022, opening the door for an order.
The first prototype of the drone flew for the first time in August 2019. After a few days, at the International Aviation and Space Salon, Sukhoi revealed a model of the second prototype.
One of the biggest structural upgrades in the second prototype has to do with the drone’s engine nozzle, which has been reworked to give the S-70 Okhotnik a stealthier profile. In addition, several “rough edges,” such as antennas, air inlets, and exhaust vents, have been removed, giving the unmanned combat aerial vehicle a much sleeker look that is highly likely that it will translate into a stealthier aircraft.
It is important to note that stealth doesn’t mean invisible, and it is not a single piece of technology that makes an aircraft “stealth.” Rather, stealth means that an aircraft is less likely to be spotted by enemy radar, and it is achieved through a layered combination of technologies, including the design of the aircraft and special paint, among other pieces of technology.
The second prototype of the unmanned combat aerial vehicle is supposed to be a more accurate version of what will eventually come out of the assembly line and join the Russian military. That is the standard operating procedure with aircraft manufacturing. The first few factory versions aren’t intended for operational use but to produce data and inform the manufacturer’s approach with respect to the final product.
But the Russian drone has some way to go. As the Warzone reports, “Just rolling out this aircraft does not mean it will all work as advertised. Two very challenging elements of low-observable design, and especially when applied to flying wings, are the exhaust and gathering reliable air data without compromising stealth.”
Now 1945s National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist and military expert specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.