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Russia’s Checkmate Su-75 Stealth Fighter Aircraft: A Threat to the U.S. Air Force?

Checkmate Stealth Fighter
Image: Russian Government

A new player in the ever-expanding field of fifth-generation stealth aircraft has emerged.

After having previously teased its reveal, and following much pomp and flare, Russia recently officially unveiled what is likely a mockup of its new stealth fighter that is being referred to as the “Checkmate” or Su-75.

The new aircraft is not Russia’s first entry into the fifth-generation stealth fighter competition – the Su-57, for example, has been in development for some time – but it does appear to represent a new avenue for Russian stealth fighter development. The new Checkmate may be a direct competitor for the F-35 Lightning II, both in combat situations but also as a competitor in the international export market.

The Checkmate is set to be developed by Russia’s United Aerospace Company, a conglomerate defense firm that includes both the Mikoyan-Guervich (MiG) and Sukhoi design bureaus, and the aircraft was formally unveiled during the MAKS-2021 international air show held at Zhukovsky International Airport. Russian President Vladimir Putin was present at the event in order to personally inspect the aircraft.

Checkmate: What We Think We Know

Early analysis of and information revealed about the new aircraft suggest that the Checkmate may prove to be a very capable combat aircraft, and looks as though it may share some features with the F-35.

The aircraft is reportedly capable of mounting a wide array of different munitions including both infrared and radar-guided air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface and anti-ship missiles, guided and unguided bombs, and unguided rockets. Like other modern stealth aircraft including the F-35, the Checkmate features an internal weapons bay in order to maximize its stealth capabilities.

Also, like the F-35, the Checkmate will be capable of sharing data with other friendly aircraft, while it may also be available in both manned and unmanned versions. Much like the F-35B variant of the Lightning II, the Checkmate is being designed as a short takeoff-and-landing aircraft, which will increase its versatility regarding the bases and platforms from which it can be operated.

Talk To Me About The Range

The Checkmate may also offer some advantages over the F-35. The Checkmate may have an effective combat radius of about 930 miles – about 250 miles greater than that of the F-35 – and its 1,180 mile per hour maximum speed will reportedly be accompanied by the ability to perform continuous supersonic flight; the F-35, meanwhile, may be limited in its ability to engage in supersonic flight.

The Low Price

Perhaps one of Checkmate’s most significant features, however, may be its low reported development cost and quick development schedule. The aircraft is reported to have a unit cost of between $25 and $30 million – a significantly reduced price when compared to the F-35 – and the Checkmate is being marketed as having a 2023 expected first flight date along with an expected first delivery date of 2026-27.

That low price may be very significant when it comes to Checkmate’s expected entry into the international export market for fifth-generation stealth aircraft. The F-35 is currently unique in its status as the only such aircraft available for international export, with six Foreign Military Sales customers have already purchased the aircraft. Assuming that cost overruns in both the development and production of the Checkmate can be controlled – and even if the new aircraft proves to be not quite as capable an aircraft as the F-35 – the Checkmate may prove to be a very attractive option for air services looking to secure a cheaper alternative to the Lightning II.

Written By

Eli Fuhrman is an Assistant Researcher in Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest and a recent graduate of Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program, where he focusedd on East Asian security issues and U.S. foreign and defense policy in the region.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Tim Williams

    July 24, 2021 at 9:56 am

    Past reliability and quality of Russian fighters are the worst of all. Doubt this new fighter is any better.

  2. Daniel E Silvan

    July 24, 2021 at 11:37 am

    Bringing up reliability and quality where the F-35 is concerned isn’t a winning debate point. Costs and maintenance however, are.

  3. Adam Gajewski

    July 24, 2021 at 4:35 pm

    To me its yet another over hyped jet, typical of Russian fashion. The extremely small intakes say yes low observable however it comes at a cost in obtainable speed. That aircraft to hit that speed takes off with a half fuel load burns most and RTBs as soon as it has a 20 second burner dash. Honestly look like typical overhyped Russian trash. Like MIG21 trash

  4. Ian Maximilian

    July 24, 2021 at 5:38 pm

    This is a very dumb and very ignorant article… you are extracting all this performance information based on literally a plastic and plywood model? It hasn’t even taken to the air yet… and you are accessing it better than the F-35? Whom ever gave you the degree at Georgetown University is a complete failure… and you Sir, with all due respect… you are a complete moron…

  5. Bill W

    July 25, 2021 at 3:04 pm

    With 4-5 yes of hype about the SU 57 I don’t buy into this bs either.

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