Earlier this week, Tass reported that Russia is currently working on a new combat aircraft that will be officially unveiled on the first day of the MAKS-2021 aerospace show, which will begin outside of Moscow next Tuesday.
While few details about the fighter’s performance characteristics haven’t been released, some Russian officials have said the undisclosed combat aircraft could rival the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.
“The teasers in English and the regions that the pilots presented in a video released by Rostec [state tech corporation] suggest that the domestic light fighter will be in competition with the US F-35 aircraft on foreign markets,” Oleg Panteleyev, executive director of the Russian Aviaport Aviation News Agency, told Tass earlier this week.
“I am certain that the fighter’s demonstration at the MAKS-2021 will create a wow effect,” Panteleyev added. “It is not accidental that [Russia’s state arms exporter] Rosoboronexport has invited over 120 delegations from 65 countries of the world to the aerospace show.”
Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the show and could be at the unveiling of the new aircraft.
Coming Into Focus
While the official unveiling is still several days away, images of the much-hyped new light-to-medium-weight fighter – or at least a very good mock-up – were posted on social media. The photos reportedly showed the fighter at the Zukovsky International Airport, outside of Moscow and the site of next week’s MAKS international air show.
New Russian plane 5th generation at Zhukov Airport pic.twitter.com/Egx8LyIfDD
— ZOKA (@200_zoka) July 15, 2021
According to The Drive, the photos “reveal a full-size airframe wrapped in a black protective covering. This reveals a stealthy-looking overall shape.” Another photo included a large hanger, which was covered with banners promoting “The Checkmate,” suggesting the name of the fighter as well as its ability to take on the United States military’s F-35.
The photo of the aircraft was subsequently posted from the official Twitter account of the state-owned Rostec Corporation (@Rostect_Russia), with the added caption added, “Wanna see me naked?”
As noted by the photos on social media, the still-unnamed aircraft is smaller and thus may feature a lower radar signature than Sukhoi Su-57, Russia’s first “fifth-generation” fighter jet, while the soon-to-be-revealed aircraft could still offer a large weapon payload and carry advanced air-launched armaments. It won’t be a replacement for the Su-57, which is only now entering service with the Russian Air Force – but would rather serve to complement that fighter.
Instead of serving as a multi-role combat aircraft, the new fighter could be a true air superiority fighter said Panteleyev.
“There is no doubt that in this decade Russia will be able to restore the tandem of breakthrough aircraft platforms: the heavy Su-57 [fifth-generation fighter] and a new light plane designed to cope with tactical assignments,” he noted.
The new mysterious Russian 5th generation stealth fighter based on Su-57 frame. The ‘promising combat aircraft’ will compete with US F-35, likely a single engine, light to medium weight (18 tons), Mach 2 speed, 360 thrust vectoring, etc
— Pacific Geopolitics (@PacGeopolitics) July 17, 2021
Rostec has already launched a new website for the project, which includes a countdown to the debut at the show and the unveiling of the aircraft. Whether the aircraft actually can deliver isn’t clear, but Rostec has certainly pulled out all the stops and built up hype worthy of a video game console release!
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.