Russia's New, Bizzare B-2 Look-alike Stealth Drone Is up to Something
The Chkalov satellite imagery indicates Hunter-B has a wingspan of around 50 feet, making it roughly the same size as the X-47B or an Su-34 manned fighter. Size confers volume and hints that Hunter-B, whatever its stealth qualities, might possess a large fuel load and a correspondingly long range.
Russia’s prototype stealth drone will make its first flight in July or August 2019, state media reported.
The Hunter-B drone will be fully autonomous and follow a pre-programmed flight path, according to Russian news agency TASS.
“The Russian defense establishment is promising a test that will include a short-duration 'jump'—the [unmanned combat air vehicle] will rise ever so briefly above the tarmac to test its launching and landing capabilities," said Samuel Bendett, an independent expert on the Russian military.
(This first appeared earlier in June 2019.)
“The flight will not last for long — several dozens of minutes at the maximum," a source told TASS. “Teams on the ground will intervene if necessary.”
Hunter-B’s much-anticipated first flight could signal the beginning of a long development that could end with the Russian air force operating fighter-style stealth drones.
A flying wing similar in shape to the U.S. Air Force's B-2 stealth bomber, Hunter-B in theory could penetrate enemy defenses to deliver ordnance.
The subsonic Hunter-B is in the same class as China's Tian Ying drone, the U.S. Air Force's RQ-170 surveillance unmanned aerial vehicle, the U.S. Navy's experimental X-47B UAV and Boeing's X-45C drone demonstrator.
It’s unclear how many Hunter-B prototypes exist. At least one was on the flight line when Russian president Vladimir Putin on May 14, 2019 visited the 929th Chkalov State Flight-Test Center in Russia's Astrakhan region.