A first test flight is expected to happen later this year.

Hunter Drone

New images have surfaced of Russia's alleged Sukhoi "Okhotnik" (or "Hunter) heavy strike drone on a runway, taken at an undisclosed location, Popular Mechanics reports.

Officials have yet to confirm the legitimacy of the images that first surfaced on Russian social media site VK.

The Drive suggests the images may have been leaked by Russia's Ministry of Defense, since it has been teasing test flights of the drone since last summer.

Earlier pictures date back to July 2017. Russian news agency TASS reported that first taxi, ground run, and acceleration tests took place in November. A first test flight is slated for later this year.

Unmanned Stealth Jet

The Okhotnik has been in development since 2011 when Russia's aircraft design house Sukhoi signed the contract with the Russian government.

The sleek aircraft is clearly built for stealth, but its engine nozzle is exposed as seen in the pictures, Popular Mechanics points out — stealth aircraft are usually outfitted with special exhausts that can reflect radar signals.

The unmanned drone will be fully autonomous, meaning that it will carry out missions all by itself without any human interaction. Except for, of course, approval for the use of its on board weapons.

International Arms Race

Russia is far from the only nation developing such an aircraft. China and India have their own stealth drone projects in the works. Spain and France have also developed unmanned combat air vehicles.

The development of capable heavy strike drones is progressing quickly around the world, and more nations are likely to show off their own unmanned military aircraft in the future.

READ MORE: Is This Russia's 'Hunter' Stealthy Flying Wing Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle? [The Drive]

More on UAVs: Shoot This Military Drone With a Laser, and It'll Stay in the Air

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