The prototype of Russia’s new heavy attack drone Okhotnik (Hunter) developed by the Sukhoi Aircraft Company will start test flights in 2018, a source in the domestic defense industry told TASS on Sunday.
"The work on the heavy long-range unmanned aerial vehicle is at the concluding stage. In particular, work has been completed to create a prototype that will begin test flights this year," the source said.
"The work is being carried out at the Novosibirsk-based Chkalov Aviation Plant (part of the Sukhoi Aircraft Company)," the source added.
Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation and the Defense Ministry declined to comment on this information to TASS.
According to open sources, a contract on developing the heavy attack drone Okhotnik weighing 20 tonnes was signed between Russia’s Defense Ministry and the Sukhoi Aircraft Company in 2011. A mockup of the drone was created in 2014 to hold ground tests.
According to unconfirmed data, the drone was developed using the ‘flying wing’ scheme, composite materials and stealth coating. The drone has a jet engine and is expected to develop a speed of up to 1,000 km/h.
Need for Okhotnik attack drone
Editor-in-Chief of the magazine Bespilotnaya Aviatsiya (Unmanned Aviation) Denis Fedutinov believes that Russia is possibly developing an unmanned aerial vehicle similar to foreign analogs, such as the X-47B developed by Northrop Grumman or the Phantom Bay made by Boeing (both variants are based on the ‘flying wing’ scheme and have a takeoff weight of 20 and 16 tonnes, respectively).
"Probably, the Okhotnik has been designed to accomplish missions similar to the assignments set for US 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," the expert believes.
As the editor-in-chief noted, the first flights of US analogs took place in 2011 but both drones remained as prototypes and did not go into serial production due to immature technologies primarily related to the possibilities of operation in autonomous mode.
"It cannot be ruled out that the Okhotnik will also be some demonstrator of technologies to practice solutions that will eventually be used on other promising drones," the expert added.