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Russia’s forthcoming unmanned combat air vehicle is about to enter its prototype stage, making its debut on the country’s Ministry of Defense television station, TV Zvezda.

The video (included below) is also the most in-depth analysis of the new aircraft, called the Sukhoi S-79 Okhotnik UCAV, to ever reach the public.

The forthcoming Russian Okhotnik means “Hunter” in English, and it’s huge.

Russia’s forthcoming UCAV is really big

The video shows off new perspectives on the forthcoming drone aircraft, including the control interface for flight operators and the internal payload bays. Additionally, the video offers exclusive windows into several design details, and the manufacturing process. The show that reviewed the new UCAV, called “Military Acceptance”, said the review was “chapter 1,” which implies there may be follow-up episodes focusing on the vehicle, where even more information will be available. This Russian military initially revealed the stealth attack drone in 2019, following its first flight, despite the fact that unofficial images had already surfaced on social media. Since then we’ve seen a few more images released, and an updated release and delivery schedule. After President Vladimir Putin completed a meeting with CEO United Aircraft Corp. (UAC) on Aug. 3, 2020, deliveries to the Russian Defense Ministry were updated to a new ETA of 2024. As of writing, only one of the new drones has been completed, but at least three other ones might be in the works. The “Hunter” drone was described in the video segment as a “laboratory” by Russian officials, which is the conventional term for military assets that are serving as a prototype.

Earlier Russian state media reports have hinted that the second version now under construction will mainly be used as a testbed for research and development, much like the first one. But the third and fourth iterations might demonstrate something far closer to the final product, according to the TV segment. Most telling about the S-70 design in the new footage is how incredibly large the UCAV is. The reporter on TV Zvezda said the “Hunter” is smaller than the Su-57 Felon (an advanced combat jet), but during the show, he walks from the wing of one of these onto the drone to demonstrate that the wingspans are similar in size.

The reporter walking from one fighter’s wing to another. Source: TV Zvezda Capture / YouTube

UCAV ‘Hunter’ can reportedly carry air-to-air missiles

The production model of the S-70 Hunter will likely function semi-autonomously, as “loyal wingmen” networked to fly in some kind of formation with the manned Felon aircraft. In the footage, the exterior of the flying-wing design is given a nice, close-up view.

Rear S-70
The rear of the S-70 UCAV, with jet exhaust unit. Source: TV Zvezda Capture / YouTube

And it reveals several intakes and exhaust ports, in addition to a front-facing camera system, and antennas. The engine exhaust is of unique interest, since it would, much like many other areas of the aircraft, lower its stealth capabilities, since many sections break the smooth profile at right angles, thus creating a radar signature.

The internal bays can reportedly carry some kind of air-to-air missile, according to The Drive, but nothing was confirmed, since it was prohibited for the Russian news service to display the bay interiors. We can’t say how the UCAV “Hunter” will stack up against similar vehicles in other nations. Last month, additional renderings of a new stealth bomber in the U.S. were revealed, but with different mission architectures, these two aren’t exactly comparable. One thing’s for sure: Russia is edging closer to the next generation of stealth and drone technology.

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