After having previously teased its release, Russia recently lifted the veil on its new fifth-generation stealth fighter when it officially unveiled the aircraft at the MAKS-2021 international air show held at Zhukovsky International Airport, with Russian President Vladimir Putin on hand at the event to personally inspect the new fighter. The aircraft is being referred to as the Su-75 or “Checkmate,” and details of its potential capabilities have emerged since its official unveiling. Some of these capabilities, such as those associated with its onboard avionics systems, suggest that the Checkmate will share some capabilities with the F-35 Lighting II. Indeed, some have pointed out that the new Checkmate is in many ways a direct challenge to the F-35 both in the air and in the international export market for advanced fifth-generation stealth aircraft.
According to Vladimir Mikheyev, the Advisor to the First Deputy CEO of the Radio-Electronic Technologies Group (KRET, part of the state-owned tech company Rostec), the new Checkmate aircraft will incorporate an advanced avionics suite. This includes an advanced large-format heads-up display (HUD), a panoramic airborne display, and a multi-functional display panel. These are similar to the avionics systems found on the Lightning II, and according to Mikheyev will even outperform the counterpart systems found on the F-35. Mikheyev added that these systems are being utilized as “the basis for developing and testing items” for both the Checkmate and future MiG aircraft as well as for the Su-57, Russia’s other fifth-generation fighter aircraft program.
The Checkmate’s avionics suite will provide pilots with a wide range of critical information while operating the aircraft. The large-format HUD will project important data onto the windshield, including information about the aircraft’s target as well as the most appropriate weapons for engaging the target. The fighter’s 25-inch panoramic airborne display will be equipped with a touch screen and will display important information such as the state of the aircraft’s various systems and weaponry, as well as the aircraft’s route and its position along its intended flight path. The multi-functional color display panel, meanwhile, is also outfitted with a touch screen and will allow pilots to easily enter any necessary command data into the aircraft’s onboard radio-electric equipment.
Also, like the F-35, the Checkmate will reportedly be capable of sharing data with other friendly aircraft and is being designed as a short takeoff-and-landing aircraft in a manner similar to that of the F-35B variant.
In addition to emerging as a possible challenger for the F-35 in any potential future aerial conflict, the Checkmate may also represent competition for the F-35 in the international export market. The F-35 is currently unique in its status as the only such aircraft available for international export, with six Foreign Military Sales customers having 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 like 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.