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Russia lags behind the US in unmanned aircraft technology, but a new drone could help change that. The prototype of Russia’s new heavy attack drone Okhotnik (Hunter) will start test flights in 2018.
The work on the heavy long-range drone, developed by the Sukhoi Aircraft Company is at the concluding stage. “In particular, work has been completed to create a prototype that will begin test flights this year,” a source in the domestic defense industry said.
The Hunter is designed as a 20-ton combat aircraft — an impressive size considering as an unmanned aircraft it has no pilot and life support systems, according to popularmechanics.com.
Tass.com reports a contract on developing the heavy attack drone Okhotnik 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.
The drone was reportedly developed using the ‘flying wing’ scheme, composite materials and stealth coating. It has a jet engine and is expected to develop a speed of up to 1,000 km/h.
Editor-in-Chief of an Unmanned Aviation magazine, 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. “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.
He added that 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.
Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation and the Defense Ministry declined to comment on this information.