As SOFREP has discussed in the past, Russia’s limited defense budget has forced them to adopt a unique strategy when it comes to new weapons development. Instead of looking to compete with the military might of the United States directly in every category, they have opted to invest heavily into specific programs that seem as if they could yield the best bang for their buck (or ruble, as the case may be). One of the places this methodology has left them lagging behind their peers, however, is in drone technology.
However, a recent announcement made through the Kremlin’s state-owned TASS news agency suggests that Russia’s long-simmering combat drone program may finally be ready to take to the skies later this year — and like all claims made by the Kremlin, it’s best to take their announcement with a grain of salt.
According to the report, Russia’s Okhotnik (which translates to “Hunter”) will fly for the first time by the end of this year, marking a significant milestone in the program that began back in 2011. Its official designation is the URBK, or Udarno-Razvedyvatelnyi Bespilotnyi Kompleks, which translates to “Strike-Reconnaissance Unmanned Complex.” The unmanned combat aircraft is being developed by Sukhoi, the same aviation firm responsible for many of Russia’s fighter jets, including their forthcoming fifth-generation fighter, the Su-57.
Originally touted as a “sixth generation” platform, the Hunter drone seems to offer considerably less than the Kremlin hoped when it made that claim. Weighing in at a massive 20 tons, that makes this drone about as heavy as many fighter platforms, which is unusual in the drone market because the aircraft requires no pilot or systems intended to interact with or support personnel. Early claims also suggested the that Hunter would be equipped with two jet engines, though it now appears to only carry one, with a subsonic top speed of a claimed 621 miles per hour.