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F-35 vs. Su-75: A Stealth Fighter Comparison

Russia's Su-75 Checkmate Stealth Fighter. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Russia's Su-75 Checkmate Stealth Fighter. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Russia has been obsessed with chess for generations, but does this interest transfer over to warplanes?

Russia’s new Su-75 fighter plane is nicknamed “Checkmate,” building on the board game’s appeal. Russia hopes to export what it claims to be a fifth-generation warplane to subsidize further acquisition by its air force. The Su-75 Checkmate is thought to be built on the Su-57 airframe and be an improvement over competing fourth-generation fighters on the export market. Should the F-35 program be worried about the Su-75?

To find out, I will compare and contrast the procurement status of both fighters.

Su-75: It Is Not Flying Yet

The Su-75 is not ready for serial production and will not even fly until 2024 at the earliest. Manufacturing in numbers is not expected until at least 2025. The Su-75 is not a priority at this time for Russia as Moscow is focused on the ground war in Ukraine in which newly produced missiles are more of a priority over building future fighters.

But Su-75 prototypes are on the way and mockups have been displayed at air shows. Russia hopes this initial production will be quicker because the Su-75 has parts and components used by its stealth Su-57 program. Some of the research and development will not be needed because of technological advances in the Su-57.

Can It Compete With the F-35 in Price?

Su-75’s manufacturer, United Aircraft Corporation, and its subsidiary Sukhoi Aircraft Company believe their stealth fighter will be cheaper than the F-35 ($30 million compared to around $80 million for the F-35). Like the F-35, the Checkmate will also be a single-engine airplane that will help reduce maintenance costs and increase fuel efficiency. The Su-75’s Saturn AL-41 engine puts out 24,000 pounds of thrust without the afterburner and 39,000 pounds with an afterburner.

Substantial Weapons Delivery and Specs 

The Checkmate will also have internal weapons bays that can carry a host of air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, and bombs. A 30mm cannon will be included for dogfighting. This would be a weapons payload of seven tons. The Checkmate’s targeting system can track six bogeys at once. Stealthiness is attained with its V-shaped tail, hybrid wing design, and engine intakes.

UAC and Sukhoi want the Su-75 to reach speeds of MACH 1.8 with a range of 1,864 miles and a ceiling of 40,000 feet.  

Countries Want the F-35 In Large Numbers

It is difficult to foresee a scenario in which the Su-75 would sell more than the F-35 on the export market. Numerous U.S. allies are either flying or ordering the F-35. There are eight partner countries. Non-partner countries such as Switzerland, Finland, Germany, and the Czech Republic have chosen the F-35

Su-75 Needs a Firm Buyer Soon

UAC and Sukhoi want to sell the Su-75 to developing nations such as Vietnam, India, and countries in Africa. These air forces would love to have a stealth fighter, but can they afford the $30 million price tag to buy in enough numbers to keep the Su-75 from becoming vaporware? Russia wants one country to “jump into the pool first.” 

The aircraft needs a primary sponsor, as Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute said to NBC News. Lee believes the Su-75 program could languish without a substantial foreign partner. The Su-75 program needs to announce a major buyer soon. This will be difficult because of sanctions and export controls in place due to the war in Ukraine.


Su-75 Checkmate Stealth Fighter. Image Credit: Russian Government.

Su-75 Checkmate

Su-57 and Su-75 Side-by-Side. Image Credit: Rostec.

Forget Europe as Sales Territory

The Su-75 will not sell in Europe as the F-35 owns the continent due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The F-35 is stealthy and robust in its sensor fusion, engine power, and weapons payload. Plus, the Americans usually offer training to pilots along with spare parts and maintenance support. The extra cost is worth it for so many partner air forces that are replacing fourth-generation fighters with the F-35.


F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.

US Military NATO F-35B

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B aircraft mechanic Lance Cpl. William Wiggins assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, currently attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), monitors an F-35B aboard amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), in the Philippine Sea Aug. 18, 2021. The F-35B’s fifth generation strike fighter capabilities bring more lethality and flexibility to combatant commanders than any other aircraft platform. The 31st MEU is operating aboard ships of America Expeditionary Strike Group in the 7th fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. John Tetrault)

US Navy F-35

F-35 AF-2 Ferry Flight from Edwards AFB, CA to Eielson AFB, AK. Oct. 11, 2017 Pilot Maj.Eskil “Taz” Amdal, Royal Norwegian Air Force.

What if the Su-75 does not even have stealth attributes? This would severely cramp foreign sales if the manufacturer cannot make the Checkmate fully stealthy. The Su-75 could then not be marketed as a fifth-generation fighter. Customers are not worried about the F-35’s level of stealthiness. If countries can afford a major F-35 buy, it is unlikely they would go for the Su-75.

Thus, Lockheed Martin will continue to have an international hit on its hands and the United States can use the F-35 as part of its diplomacy efforts by reminding allies that they are getting one of the best, if not the best, fighter in the world.


F-35. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Stealth F-35

Stealth F-35C. Image Credit: Creative Commons.


F-35C. Image Credit: YouTube Screenshot.

F-35 Beast Mode

U.S. Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 , Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), refuel a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 225, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 13, 3rd MAW, on a Forward Arming and Refueling Point at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Grounds, Yuma, Arizona, May 23, 2022. The weapons configuration consists of six inert guided bombs, four mounted onto the wings and two loaded into the weapons bay, as well as an Air Intercept Missile 9X. Marine Aircraft Group 13 forces are capable of conducting offensive air support, anti-aircraft warfare, and aviation reconnaissance from expeditionary sites in any clime and place. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Samuel Ruiz)

Expert Biography: Serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.