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New images surface of Russian autonomous “heavy strike” drone

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Photos have emerged on Russian social media site, VK, of a prototype of a super slick Russian war drone.

The Sukhoi “Okhotnik” or “Hunter” is an autonomous heavy drone. Its official name is the Udarno-Razvedyvatelnyi Bespilotnyi Kompleks in Russian which translates to Strike-Reconnaissance Unmanned Complex. Photos of the craft were snapped from an unknown Russian location. Although the image has not yet been verified by the Russian government, The Drive reports the photos is suspected to have been leaked by Russia’s Defence Ministry.

One of the photos of the Okhotnik Hunter drone leaked on Russian social media, VK.

The Hunter drone has been in development since 2011. In July 2017, initial ground runs and acceleration tests took place. So-called “jumps” in which aircraft take off then land almost immediately are expected to take place later this year.

The photo of the prototype shows that it is not yet in its finished form. Popular Mechanics write that the engine nozzle is exposed and it does not yet have its anti-radar coating. Despite not being finished,  Okhotnik is an impressive craft. It’s designed to weigh 20 tonnes (the current prototype weight is unknown), which is greater than the F18 Super Hornet. The Super Hornet includes a cockpit and life support system for its pilot.

The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet weighs less at 16 tonnes empty than the Okhotnik drone at 20 tonnes.

The Hunter is reportedly capable of reaching a max speed of 621 miles an hour (1000 kph). Once operational, Okhotnik will be capable of fully autonomous takeoff, flight and landing. If deployed, it would be tasked with taking out enemy anti-aircraft systems, communications or command posts (with the final go-ahead on weapon use authorized by ground crew). Given the Russian government’s notorious reputation for deception, one must take any releases about their weapons with a healthy degree of scepticism.

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