With President Vladimir Putin on hand, Russia officially unveiled its secret new fighter jet—named “Checkmate”—at the MAKS-2021 air show in Moscow, Russia, earlier this week.
However, this particular version of the jet is most likely a full-scale model of the real aircraft, according to experts at Hush-Kit.
“Without higher resolution images it is difficult to be certain,” it writes.
“However, the lack of wiring and hydraulic lines within the visible parts of the main landing gear well, as well as the rather oversimplified external textures seen in the leaked footage pre-official the unveiling appear to suggest a mock up rather than a functioning aircraft,” it continues.
As reported in Popular Mechanics, the fighter jet comes with an “unusually pointy nose and an engine intake below the cockpit,” in addition to an “internal weapons bay designed to preserve its anti-radar shaping and can carry both air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance, including both infrared- and radar-guided air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground and anti-ship missiles, guided and unguided bombs, and unguided rockets.”
This next-generation aircraft also boasts a combat radius of 1,500 kilometers (932 miles and a top speed of 1,180 miles per hour—but it does come with a hefty price tag of $25 million to $30 million. The first “Checkmate” is expected to take flight in 2023, and the actual deliveries of combat-ready airplanes will begin as early as 2026.
Toe-to-Toe With F-35
According to Popular Mechanics, “Sukhoi, in a dig against the F-35, says the Checkmate is capable of ‘continuous supersonic flight’—a nod to last year’s revelation the F-35 can only fly supersonic for fifty seconds before possibly damaging the plane. Sukhoi claims its aircraft is capable of 8G maneuvers.”
The single-seat, twin-engine aircraft—offering a supersonic range of more than 1,500 kilometers, which is more than two times the range of the Su-27 fighter—has been designed to destroy all types of air, ground, and naval targets. It also possesses multi-mission capability, automation, and artificial intelligence technologies that significantly enhance the capabilities of any air force.
A bigger question remains, however: Could the “Checkmate” really take on the F-35 head-to-head? If costs can be kept at reasonable levels during the manufacturing process, the F-35 indeed could take a hit in the global sales market.
The F-35 is known as the most lethal and versatile aircraft of the modern era. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis even called the F-35 “critical” for America’s air superiority and applauded its ability to integrate seamlessly with allies who have purchased the jet.
“The F-35 serves as the backbone of allied airpower for thirteen nations and counting. Playing a critical role in joint domain operations, the fighter brings unprecedented situational awareness, information sharing and connectivity to the coalition,” Lockheed Martin states on its website.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.