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.