April 02, 2021

Russian fighter pilots could soon fly alongside bomb-filled combat drones

Source: Popular Science

Journalist: Kelsey D. Atherton

If Russia decides to send planes into combat by the end of this decade, human pilots in those aircraft will still pick targets, but it will be drone escorts that actually drop the bombs. The S-70 Okhotnik, a prototype combat drone produced by Russian defense giant Rostec, is expected to enter military service in 2024 with the promised capability of attacking both air and ground targets.

Guiding the Okhotnik and overseeing its target selection will be a human fighter pilot inside the cockpit of an Su-57, Russia’s fifth-generation fighter and an approximate counterpart to the US’s F-35. Using a combat drone to extend the power and reach of an inhabited fighter, while still keeping a human in charge of firing decisions, is an increasingly common practice among militaries. If it works as promised, it means that this concept will not be limited to the military of the United States or its allies.

Read the full story and more from Popular Science.


  • Samuel Bendett

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Technology and National Security Program

    Samuel Bendett is an Adviser with CNA Strategy, Policy, Plans and Programs Center (SP3), where he is a member of the Russia Studies Program. His work involves research on the ...