Imminent start of mass production of Russian drone S-70 Okhotnik-B in 2024

Mass production of the Russian combat drone S-70 Okhotnik-B is set to begin soon, marking a significant milestone in the development of this aircraft designed by Sukhoi. The initial ground tests took place in the autumn of 2018, followed by its maiden flight in August of the following year, alongside the Su-57 Felon combat aircraft. These events were confirmed through photographs released by the Russian Ministry of Defense. According to some reports, deliveries of the first models are expected to commence in 2024.
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Russian combat drone S-70 Okhotnik-B (Picture source: Russian media)

The Russian government had expressed its intention to swiftly deploy the S-70, with plans to begin deliveries in 2024. This timeline was confirmed by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in August 2021. However, substantial improvements have been made to the S-70 since these initial announcements, primarily focusing on enhancing its stealth capabilities. The twin-engine Saturn AL-31 turbojet has been modified to reduce infrared signature and radar cross-section.

While there were reports in 2022 suggesting possible use of the S-70 in Ukraine, its official deployment within the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) has not yet occurred. Nevertheless, Sergei Semka, the vice-governor of Novosibirsk Oblast, recently announced that serial production of the S-70 will commence in the second half of 2024, implying potential operational deployment before 2025.

However, questions remain regarding the specific role of the S-70 and the number of units to be delivered to the Russian forces. It could serve as a "loyal wingman" for the Su-57 Felon or be employed for strikes in contested environments. Officials have described the S-70 as an unprecedented heavy attack drone capable of intercepting enemy aircraft at long ranges. Its actual usage is yet to be seen.

The S-70 is an unmanned Russian combat. It boasts an impressive wingspan of 20 meters, allowing it to effectively operate in various scenarios. While data on its empty weight varies, it typically falls between 10,000 and 20,000 kg, making it a substantial aircraft. Its maximum takeoff weight is 25,000 kg, enabling it to carry a significant payload.

The S-70 is powered by a derivative of the Saturn AL-41FM1 engine, without afterburner or thrust vectoring. It can achieve a maximum speed of 1,000 km/h, roughly equivalent to 620 mph or 540 knots. However, its true strength lies in its remarkable range, extending up to 6,000 km, approximately 3,700 miles or 3,200 nautical miles. This extended range positions it as a key player in long-distance operations.

Regarding its armament capacity, the S-70 features two internal weapons bays capable of carrying up to 2,000 kg of guided and unguided munitions. This versatility in armament makes it a potentially formidable asset for strike and target suppression missions.