An apparent first clear image of Russia’s next-generation unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) has appeared. A photo of the Sukhoi-developed Okhotnik was posted on a Russian internet forum, seemingly showing the combat drone undergoing ground tests at the Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Organization (NAPO) in central Russia.
The Okhotnik is one of three large unmanned aerial vehicles currently being developed by Moscow: the Okhotnik combat system is the largest, weighing more than 15 tonnes. The other two UAVs are the one-tonne Inokhodets (considered a counterpart to the US Predator), and the five-tonne Altius-M (broadly analogous to the MQ-9 Reaper).
Strike-Reconnaissance Unmanned Complex
The Okhotnik (hunter) is being developed under the URBK (Udarno-Razvedyvatelnyi Bespilotnyi Kompleks, Strike-Reconnaissance Unmanned Complex), which was pursued in preference to the manned LMFS lightweight fighter.
It was expected that the Sukhoi Design Bureau would concentrate on the URBK once it had completed development of the Su-57 fighter. Intriguingly, photos appeared earlier this week of a Su-57 prototype, T-50-3, in a new scheme including a silhouette of the Okhotnik painted on the tail fin.
RuAF Su-57 '053' new colour scheme + Okhotnik UCAV silhouette
— @Rupprecht_A (@RupprechtDeino) January 18, 2019
In October 2011 the Russian defence ministry ordered Sukhoi to develop and build a prototype of the Okhotnik-U long-range high-speed strike/reconnaissance drone. Officially, the Okhotnik is classed in Russia as a ‘sixth-generation UAV’.
Preliminary design work was expected to be completed in 2015, after which Sukhoi would complete the technical design and construction of a prototype. An initial 20 billion roubles ($600m at the time) was reportedly assigned to the programme.
The Okhotnik is thought to powered by a Klimov turbofan, possibly a non-afterburning versions of the RD-33MK as used in the MiG-29K/KUB naval fighter. The UCAV’s maximum speed has been estimated at 1,000-1,100km/h (621-684mph).