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Russia has been enhancing its unmanned combat aerial vehicle capabilities. The Ministry of Defense has published a short video showing its new “Hunter” attack drone in action. Known as “Okhotnik” in Russian, the 20-ton heavy unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) performed its first test flight at a military airfield. The drone was developed by Sukhoi, which also makes a range of military jets for Russia’s armed forces.
When they enter active service, Hunter drones will represent a major step forward for Russia’s drone program.
According to tass.com, the drone features stealth technology and a jet engine that can propel it to a top speed of around 620 miles per hour. It boasts an anti-radar coating and surveillance equipment.
Mathieu Boulègue, Russia expert at Chatham House, told CNN.com that Moscow only started developing drones in earnest 10 to 15 years ago. “They’ve been able to turn things around and create an industrial base for drones,” he said. However, the US has been using similar heavy strike drones for around 10 years, he said. “Russia is late coming to the market.”
While analysts have previously cautioned that Russian boasts of new military capabilities are often not backed up in reality, Boulègue believes the Hunter will eventually be deployed.
The Hunter is unlikely to be used in combat situations, but it could be used in second strikes.
This is due to the fact that the military will be wary of losing even a single drone, said Boulègue. The Hunter will serve as a technological demonstrator to prove that Russia can develop and deploy heavy strike drones, and will likely be marketed to third parties, he added.
The flight lasted around 20 minutes. In video footage posted on YouTube, the drone, covered in gray stealth paint, can be seen taking off, maneuvering in the air, and landing: