The Russian military is flying two prototype S-70 “hunter” stealth drones that are expected to be operational by 2024, a significant and potentially worrisome development for the Pentagon.
S-70 Okhotnik: Explained
The Okhotnik is not only stealthy but is also reported to be an armed attack drone, according to numerous reports, including 2018 one on Russia Beyond citing Russian experts discussing the drone.
Professor Vadim Kozyulin of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences said that the Okhotnik would be equipped with air-to-surface missiles and a series of bombs (glide and operator-controlled) that would be hidden inside the body rather than hanging from the wings. This would reduce the aircraft’s visibility on enemy radar.
According to the Russia Beyond essay, the Okhotnik poses serious dangers thanks to its stealthy horizontal combined body, wing shape, and internal weapons bay. It also supposedly uses stealth liners and is powered by nuclear propulsion.
The drone can launch an attack in stealth mode because its weaponry can be stored inside the aircraft rather than dangling below on pylons. The drone may also have some small “hard spots” to allow for a heavier attack type in beast mode.
Due to the lack of visible structures, forms, and sharp angles beneath the weapons, ground-based air defense radars will have significantly less to “bounce” or “pong” their signal off of in order to construct a representation of ground sensors.
Key questions about S-70 Okhotnik
The real questions about the drone may also concern its level of technological sophistication regarding its additional stealth features, i.e., what kind of thermal management or heat reduction does the drone have?
What is the effectiveness of stealth coatings? And more importantly, is there an internally buried motor that ensures that the temperature of the air surrounding the drone is roughly equivalent to that of the drone itself to “blind” the thermal sensors? How is the exhaust managed?
An equally pressing question raised by the Russia Beyond trial is the development of artificial intelligence capabilities for the drone, which would exponentially increase its ability to process sensor data, target information, and network with other Manned and unmanned systems.
Does Russia copy U.S. military technology?
The Russian news agency TASS has already published several articles about how its military is “copying” the U.S. Air Force’s successful interconnection with the F-35, F-22, and Valkyrie drone, with a crewed- drone between the Okhotnik and the fifth-generation Russian Su-57.
This prompts serious concerns about Russia’s ability to properly recreate the “faithful wingman” concept developed by the United States Air Force, in which a manned fighter works in close collaboration with a stealthy unmanned drone.
This reduces latency, streamlines attack possibilities, and networks attack details across broader, more threatening formations. Concerns about the Russian drone’s potential impact extend to more specific issues, such as the effectiveness of integrated A.I. data analysis and the “hardening” of networks that combine manned and unmanned equipment.
Russia does not have the capacity for mass manufacturing.
However, Russia has yet to build many Su-57s, and one wonders if it has the industrial capacity to build many new drones. While, of course, even small numbers would pose a credible threat, Russia may not have the ability to “scale up” the existence of this drone quickly.
U.S. military stealth drones include the Sentinel, although no evidence points to the existence of a “weaponized” stealth drone, which may put the United States at a disadvantage.