Russia’s stealthy new combat drone just took its first flight
Russia's stealthy new Su-70 Okhotnik-B heavy combat drone has taken flight for the first time, the Russian defense ministry revealed.
The first flight, which occurred at a military airfield over the weekend, lasted 20 minutes, TASS, a Russian state-run media outlet, reported, citing a defense ministry press statement. "The aerial vehicle flown by the operator made several circles around the airfield at an altitude of 600 meters and then successfully landed," the ministry said.
It is unclear where the testing occurred, but satellite images from May 2019 showed the drone sitting along the flight line when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the 929th Chkalov State Flight-Test Center in the Astrakhan region on May 14, 2019.
Russian state media announced plans for the aircraft's maiden flight back in May 2019, revealing that it would occur sometime in July or August 2019. A source in the aircraft manufacturing industry told TASS that the first flight would take place at the Novosibirsk Aircraft Plant.
The drone, a Sukhoi Design Bureau product with a flying wing shape, is quite large, but it has a low radar signature, according to Russian state media. "The drone is equipped with equipment for optical-electronic, radio engineering and other types of reconnaissance activities," TASS reports.
Some observers have expressed doubts about the Russian drone's stealth capabilities, suggesting that while its shape offers some advantages, the aircraft might be detectable from behind due to its exposed engine nozzle, perhaps a prototype flaw that will be corrected as Russia moves forward with this project. Russia reportedly lags the US in stealth technology, including coated materials designed to reduce an aircraft's radar returns.
The first photos of the Okhotnik, also known as the Hunter, appeared online in January, when pictures emerged showing the unmanned combat aerial vehicle being towed at what The War Zone suspects was likely Sukhoi's Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Plant.
The flight line photos that emerged in May 2019 led observers to conclude that the Okhotnik has a wingspan of about 50 feet, making it about as large as China's Tian Ying drone or America's experimental X-47B drone, The National Interest reports.
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