Russia’s New Okhotnik Unmanned Stealth Fighter to Complete State Trials By Year’s End: Deliveries to Air Force Begin in 2024

The Russian Aerospace Forces are set to complete state testing of the S-70 Okhotnik unmanned stealth fighter by the end of 2023, according to a source close to the service’s command who spoke to state media anonymously. “Under the current plans, Okhotnik’s government trials are to be completed before the end of the year and its mass production and supplies to the army will begin starting in 2024. Several dozen of these aerial vehicles are to be sent to the army under the contract,” the source stated. The aircraft was first unveiled in July 2018, where it was seen taxiing at the Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association plant in Southwestern Siberia, and is expected to be allocated a range of roles including supporting manned fighters for penetration of enemy airspace and air superiority missions. The aircraft reportedly has near identical internal weapons bays to the Su-57 fighter and can thus use all the same beyond visual range armaments, including R-77M air to air missiles and Kh-59MK2 radar evading air to surface missiles

With a significantly lower expected cost to the Su-57, and with superior stealth capabilities, Okhotnik fighters expected to serve as force multipliers for units deploying the next generation manned aircraft. Su-57s have been deployed for a range of operations in Ukraine including air to air combat, air defence suppression and launching long range precision strikes, and despite very long delays to their service entry expansion of production is expected to allow for the delivery of around 12-16 near airframes to the Air Force in 2023. With Russia reportedly intending to field the Su-57 as a ‘5+ generation’ fighter by integrating a range of new technologies, one of the most important capabilities in next generation warfare is expected to be the integration of drone’ wingman’ aircraft. The fighter’s foreign rivals the Chinese J-20 and American F-35 are set to benefit from ‘wingman’ drones of their own, while Chinese and American sixth generation fighter programs rely on them even more heavily. While the Okhotnik’s early prototype airframes were notably criticised for their limited stealth capabilities, very notable improvements have been seen on more recent prototypes indicating it could be one of the stealthiest combat aircraft of its size in the world.