Adem Duygu, a military analyst from Turkey, posted commercial satellite imagery of Russia’s new combat stealth drone on a flight line around the date President Vladimir Putin inspected the country’s latest warplanes at the 929th Chkalov State Flight-Test Center in Russia’s Astrakhan region.
Commenting on the latest satellite imagery, The National Interest said the new drone, dubbed the Sukhoi Okhotnik-B, or Hunter-B, a stealth heavy unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) being developed by Sukhoi as a sixth-generation aircraft, was first spotted by land-based cameras earlier this year at an airfield in Novosibirsk in southern Russia.
Duygu didn’t provide a date on when the satellite imagery was taken, but it’s likely the photo was snapped within the first two weeks of May. This is because, on May 14, Putin was escorted by six Sukhoi Su-57 stealth jets to Chkalov, for an immediate inspection of the flight line.
The satellite image of the flight line at the Chkalov State Flight-Test Center shows the Hunter-B, Su-57, Su-34, a MiG-29, and multiple Sukhoi Flanker variants.
In a planned statement surrounding the trip, Putin hardly mentioned the stealth drone: “In addition to the modern and advanced military aircraft and helicopters that were shown to us, unmanned aerial vehicles were presented,” Putin said. “I emphasize that all the activities in preparation for the serial production of this technology were performed on time.”
The National Interest doesn’t believe the Hunter-B will be ready for series production anytime soon.
Estimates show the Hunter-B is similar in size to China’s Tian Ying drone, the US Air Force’s RQ-170 Sentinel, and the US Navy’s X-47B UAV.
Tom Cooper, an independent expert on Russian military aviation, said the Hunter-B entering squadron service with the Russian Air Force is “big.”
“The Russian military is running multiple UAV-related projects,” Cooper said. “Thus the emergence of this project is perfectly normal.”
Samuel Bendett, an independent expert on the Russian military, said the Hunter-B could begin flight-testing in 2H19 if it hasn’t already done so.
“At this point, it is going to be heaviest and fastest UAV [in Russian service] if and when fielded, but additional testing and evaluation will have to take place in order for this unmanned system to be fully functional,” Bendett said. “Its speed [up to 620 miles per hour] and weight — up to 20 tons — means that a host of aerodynamic, electronic and high-tech issues need to be worked out.”
Besides the nuclear arms race between Russia and the US, both countries have been modernizing their militaries with new technologies, including developing new fifth-generation fighter jets, UCAVs, and hypersonic weapons. The world is on the cusp of a significant conflict, once global trade crashes and the world is thrown into a trade recession or even a depression, the probabilities of conflict will soar. According to the chart below, maybe that time is now.