UAVs and 5th generation fighters will destroy targets with the same type of missiles. For this, a separate seat for the operator will be added to the aircraft.
The Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) may soon be able to deploy the S-70B Okhotnik attack aircraft paired with the Su-57 Criminal multirole fighter. The Eurasian Times writes about it.
In December 2020, RIA Novosti reported on tests where the S-70B conducted simulated launches of infrared and radar-headed air-to-air missiles to test fire control systems at the 185th combat training center in Ashuluk. In May 2022, a source briefed the agency about new tests: Okhotnik fired guided missiles from a Su-57 at ground targets.
The Janes Defense portal suggested that the Russians were using the X-59MK2, a cruise missile about 4 m long and with a satellite guidance range of 498 km, launched by the Su-57 fighter. A video released by the Russian Ministry of Defense soon after confirmed the predictions. The missile is controlled by an inertial navigation system corrected by the Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) during flight, and by an electro-optical digital field correlation system at the final stage. In Russia they say that the accuracy of the rocket is 3-5 m.
Key features of the S-70B “Hunter” drone:
- Length: 14m
- Wingspan: 19 m
- Combat load: 2.8 tons, according to other sources – up to 8 tons
- Takeoff weight: 25 t
- Maximum speed: 1400 km / h (at low altitude), according to other sources – about 1000 km / h
- Practical ceiling: 18,000 m
- Flight range: 6000 km
It is combined with the Su-57 aircraft not only with missiles, but also with the AL-31F jet engine of NPO Saturn, which is considered the best in the Russian Federation. This engine was also used to power China’s fifth-generation J-20 “Mighty Dragon” stealth aircraft, until the Chinese made their own model, the WS-15. The Su-57 and S-70B “Okhotnik” received internal weapons compartments, which put them in the category of low visibility fifth generation.
According to the head of the Rostec state company Sergey Chemezov, mass production of the drone should begin in 2023 and enter service with the Russian Military Space Forces in 2024. The final version of the Okhotnik left the Novosibirsk Aviation Plant in December 2021 with a new flat exhaust that better matches the engine and body shape.
According to analysts, Russia could quickly release a new drone and combine it with combat aircraft. In early June, Russian media reported that four Su-57s were used “to suppress the Ukrainian air defense.” The aircraft were connected to a single information network through automated communication systems, data transmission, navigation and real-time target acquisition. According to the source, during operation the Su-57 proved low radar visibility.
Andrei Yelchaninov, Deputy Chairman of the Board of the Military-Industrial Commission of the Russian Federation, said in an interview that aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles can interact not only with each other, but also in “various combat formations.” According to TASS, Russian designers are also developing a version of the Su-57 with a separate seat for the operator, which can control a swarm of Okhotnikov to destroy targets together.
The Eurasian Times believes that the role of the S-70B in Russia’s plans is illustrated by Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko’s announcement that they intend to launch a drone from the new Project 23900 landing craft Mitrofan Moskalenko. This ship will be the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, and Okhotnik should show targets for Zircon hypersonic anti-ship missiles. Mitrofan Moskalenko has been under construction at the plant in Kerch since 2020.
Earlier, Valeriy Yakovenko, founder of the DroneUA UAV manufacturing company, explained why the Okhotnik attack drone could not reach Ukraine. Russia cannot independently manufacture the necessary electronic components, and international sanctions prohibit their sale.