The world first got wind of Russia's massive, 20-ton stealth drone fighter last summer when Russian defense industry sources told TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet:
According to the defense official, the sixth generation jet program “has not yet taken full shape, its main features are already known.”
“First of all, it should be unmanned and capable of performing any combat task in an autonomous regime. In this sense, the stealth drone will become the prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,’ the source said, adding that the drone will be able to “take off, fulfill its objectives and return to the airfield.”
“However, it will not receive the function of decision-making regarding the use of weapons – this will be decided by a human,” he said.
Well, as LiveJournal now reports, new images of the first prototype of the unmanned recon-strike drone - nicknamed "Hunter" - have been taken at the airdrome of the Novosibirsk Aviation Plant.
This model is undergoing factory ground tests there from November 2018. The start of the prototype flight tests of the prototype is scheduled for 2019.
Another defense expert told TASS that the single-engine Okhotnik (“Hunter” in Russian) stealth drone has a top speed of roughly 621 mph (.809 Mach), and would start flight tests in the second half of this year.
“The Russian Defense Ministry and the Sukhoi Company signed a contract for developing the 20-ton Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy unmanned strike aircraft in 2011. The drone’s mock-up model was made in 2014. According to unconfirmed reports, composite materials and anti-radar coating were used to create the Okhotnik. The drone is equipped with a reaction-jet propulsion and is supposed to develop a speed of 1000 kilometers per hour,” said TASS.
As we noted previously, Sam Bendett, a researcher at the CNA Corporation and a member of CNA’s Center for Autonomy and AI, told Defense One, “Sounds like Russia wants everything to be included into the new design at once. In reality, they will probably have to compromise, selecting more realistic qualifications for the new aircraft. Most importantly, this will be an expensive endeavor, further pushing Russian designers and the Ministry of Defense to be more selective in approving the final aircraft specs. However, some qualifications, like optional manning, autonomy and some form of artificial intelligence will probably be included.”
Bottom line, said Bendett:
“Ohotnik is barely flying yet and some time will pass before it becomes an operational variant. Nonetheless, this unmanned aerial vehicle and Russia’s future combat aircraft plans offer a glimpse into Moscow’s thoughts on future warfare.”
Defense One notes that Russia’s new stealth jet could include radio-photon radar, anti-radar skin, directed energy and electromagnetic weapons, and have the ability to store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally.