Serial deliveries of the S-70 Okhotnik-B heavy combat UAV to the Russian Armed Forces are expected to begin in 2024, Andrei Yelchaninov, First Deputy Chairman of the Board of the Military-Industrial Commission (MIC) of Russia, said in an interview with Interfax.
“The drone has shown its performance, and is still being tested. What is currently flying is a technology demonstrator and a prototype of a drone that should enter the troops starting from 2024,” Yelchaninov said.
According to him, serial purchases of the Okhotnik-B will be included in the next state armament program for 2024-2033. Both the Ministry of Defense and the board of the military-industrial complex of the Russian Federation are already actively working on drawing it up.
Yelchaninov noted that during the joint tests of the Okhotnik-B with the fifth generation Su-57 fighter jet, the mutual transfer of information between the aircraft is being tested – the redistribution of targets in flight, maintaining intervals and distances, and performing anti-missile maneuvers.
In the future, the pilot of the Su-57 fighter will be able to distribute tasks to a group of drones and organize the work of the so-called “swarm” using artificial intelligence, the first deputy chairman of the board of the Russian military-industrial complex claimed.
“This is one of the possible scenarios, that also prove that human life is always higher and more expensive. And the capability of one human brain is much higher than the totality of a set of computers,” Yelchaninov said.
Essentially, delivers starting as of 2024, with only a prototype being useable 4 years earlier shows how far Russia has to go in order to catch up to market leaders such as the US and Israel in terms of UAV technology.
Russia also doesn’t specifically need a heavy combat drone, as it has a large number of fighter aircraft, and also active pilots, with sufficient training.
On the other hand, medium, light combat drones and loitering munitions are critically important.
There is, however, a setback – receiving significant funding on “small-scale projects” is difficult, while heavy drones such as the Okhotnik-B are very attractive for heavy funding.
This all goes against any successes that the “small-scale projects” have.
As a result, Russian developers are focused on UAVs that are not of critical importance, since they are a sort of redundancy of capabilities that already exist. At the same time, those that are important fall behind, since there’s little interest in working with close to no funding.
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