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Okhotnik drone to engage in reconnaissance, strikes - part 1

The Russian Defense Ministry published the footage of a joint flight  of Okhotnik combat drone and the fifth-generation Su-57 fighter jet. The drone was controlled by the jet. The ministry said such a configuration considerably increases the radar field of the fighter jet. The Military-Industrial Courier writes about the main missions of the new drone.

Okhotnik drone to engage in reconnaissance strikes part 1 Okhotnik heavy reconnaissance strike drone (Picture source: Russian MoD)

The integration of Su-57 and Okhotnik was for the first time reported in the spring of 2019. The keel of a Su-57 got a picture showing the silhouettes of the jet and the drone united by a lightning. It was not clear how far the work had progressed at the time and whether it was a priority in the development of the latest drone.

Okhotnik is a top secret vehicle of the Aerospace Forces. It surprisingly appeared in the public domain. In the spring of 2019, photos were published of a ready-made drone running on the airstrip of Novosibirsk aircraft plant. The vehicle began to fly in summer.

The Aerospace Forces are likely to have two detachments of the latest drones in the Western and Southern Military Districts by 2022. Okhotnik will be a universal vehicle. Besides reconnaissance, it can strike with a wide range of air weapons ranging from smart bombs to cruise missiles. At present, Okhotnik is the most ambitious project of a combat drone in Russia and the world.

Its sole competitor is the US RQ-180. The project of Northrop Grumman Corporation is so secret that no drone scheme is available to say nothing of the flight footage. Still the US media say the drone enjoys the broadest capabilities.

Russia began to create a heavy multirole unmanned aerial vehicle in mid-2000s. Two projects were offered. The MiG Design Bureau proposed Skat and its model was for the first time displayed at MAKS airshow in 2007. The Yakovlev Design Bureau offered another project developed by Irkut Corporation (the Yakovlev bureau was a part of it). The official drone name was Proryv (Breakthrough), but some sources called it Yak-133.

Initially, Proryv looked more promising than Skat. The Yakovlev bureau offered both a universal combat reconnaissance drone and a whole line of vehicles on its base. Several sources said the Defense Ministry stopped the design of heavy combat reconnaissance drones in 2008, as the project looked hardly implementable. In 2013, the work resumed and the Defense Ministry formulated new technical requirements for the vehicle.

In 2016, Proryv made the maiden flight. Roscosmos had to be engaged to help the vehicle take off.

It was decided in the same year to unite the work into a single project led by the Sukhoi Design Bureau. The decision merged the experience of Proryv and Skat and PAK FA program. Thus, the story of Okhotnik originated.

What do the Russian Aerospace Forces need Okhotnik for? The vehicle has to engage in the same missions as the US RQ-180. They are reconnaissance and strikes at important targets protected by multi-layered air defense. The latest drone should be able to operate in areas controlled by airborne early warning aircraft.

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