Russian MOD is developing the manned-unmanned teaming concept integrating Su-57 Felons and S-70 Okhotnik UCAVs.
The Russian MOD Is working on the idea of integrating the S-70 Okhotnik-B (or “Hunter-B”) UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle) platforms with the Su-57 Felon squadrons, Izvestia reported. The solution seems to address the problems of the contemporary air operations expected to be conducted in an A2/AD setting.
Interestingly, the quantitative distribution between the types would assume that 2 to 3 Su-57 squadrons would have a single UCAV unity assigned to them. Between the airframes, a manned-unmanned teaming (MUM/T) scheme would be established. The Russians have already gathered some experience in operating UAVs, with unmanned recce assets becoming a part of the 689th Fighter Regiment stationed in Kaliningrad or the 318th Mixed Regiment stationed in Crimea.
The main goal of the Russian program is to establish a data link between the manned, and unmanned platforms. Noteworthy, the data sharing is also to support missile evasion. Izvestia claims that in the future the Felon pilots should be able to redistribute the tasks among the UAVs, in a “loyal wingman” scenario. Recently, it was also announced that drone was tested with air-to-air missiles in the fighter role. This test happened over the Ashuluk range (home of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ Combat Training and Combat Application Center) in southern Russia recently and was reportedly the first weapon testing performed after months of assessments of the flight qualities and on-board systems. The S-70 also carried out several flights with captive training missiles. As explained, this could be a further demonstration that the S-70 could be intended also to act as a “Loyal Wingman” for the Su-57 in future.
Three S-70 prototypes are about to join the test program in 2022-2023. Procurement of the S-70 platform is a part of the planning documents issued by the Russian MoD, covering the period between 2024 and 2033.
The Russian MUM/T involving the Russian 5th generation aircraft and the S-70 UCAV was not unexpected. One of the Su-57 prototypes was photographed wearing a special pixelated camouflage on the underside of the aircraft that mimics the plan view shape of the Hunter remotely piloted aircraft. Additionally, a silhouette of the Okhotnik drone, alongside a silhouette of the Felon has been painted on one of the vertical stabilizers of one of the jets. The silhouettes have a lightning strike between them, probably symbolizing the expected integration. Furthermore, the test flight program of the Russian Okhotnik UCAVs also involved the Su-57s.
As already reported, the Russian Air Force received the first serial production Su-57 recently. The aircraft is going to be used by the Akhtubinsk test-flight center. The Russian Air Force is expecting to receive 76 examples of the Su-57. The production plans cover the period until the year 2027. The first series-manufactured example (T-50S1, serial number 51001, 01 ‘Blue’) made its maiden flight in early December 2019 and was to be received by the Air Force on December 27. Unfortunately, it crashed on Dec. 24. 2019. Two examples or Felon are scheduled for delivery in 2021.