Russian President Vladimir Putin likes to boast about his country’s weaponry, including supposedly “invincible” nuclear weapons, hypersonic missiles too fast to shoot down, and a nuclear torpedo powerful enough to trigger tsunamis.
Now, he wants everyone to know Russia’s getting into the drone game.
Russia’s Defense Ministry debuted the newest addition to its arsenal on Wednesday: a large, unmanned stealth drone with an uncanny resemblance to the American B-2 bomber. With a 3,100-mile range, it could just about fly from New York City to Portugal without refueling.
Dubbed the S-70 “Okhotnik,” or “Hunter,” Russia’s first so-called heavy strike drone completed its maiden 20-minute flight without a hitch on Saturday, the Ministry claimed. The Okhotnik weighs over 20 tons fully loaded, with a 50-foot wingspan.
The Defense Ministry released a short, one-minute video of the flight Wednesday morning.
Fielding a large drone would mark a big step forward for Russia’s military, which has so far only rolled out smaller units. But western military experts have frequently been skeptical of Russia’s more bombastic claims about its new advanced military hardware, including in such carefully-orchestrated roll-outs.
For instance, last year, Putin grabbed the world’s attention by announcing a new nuclear-tipped cruise missile with “unlimited” range. But a U.S. intelligence report said that early testing revealed a far less impressive flight path of just 22 miles, at best, and that four test-flights had resulted in four crashes.
Assuming it flies better than that, the Okhotnik would be a big step up in Russian drone tech. The Okhotnik’s design has been compared to the U.S.’s Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel drone, which was first spotted in Afghanistan back in 2007, and was used to monitor the U.S. military operation that killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011.
An RQ-170 drone was famously downed and captured by the Iranian military in 2011, triggering a back and forth between the middle eastern country and U.S. government who asked that it be returned.
Cover: In this video grab made available on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019 by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, Russia's military drone Okhotnik is seen in flight at an unidentified location in Russia. The ministry said the drone, which has stealth capabilities and is equipped with advanced reconnaissance equipment, made its maiden flight Saturday. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)