RIP, Russia’s Su-75 Checkmate Stealth Fighter?: The game of chess has etiquette for resigning – a point most Russians know, as chess is now considered their national game, brought to Old Russia likely in the 9th century via the Volga-Caspian trade routes. However, the Russian aerospace industry likely never got the memo about resignation etiquette, as it has refused to resign (or otherwise admit) that it is likely facing a “checkmate” for the Su-75 fighter that even a year ago was considered barely vaporware.
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As the Rand Corporation/Defense One editorial noted in January 2022, Russia claimed that the Checkmate could be rapidly developed, mass-produced, and made available to foreign buyers later in this decade.
“A key assumption, though, is that the investment in the Su-57 can jump-start the Checkmate program.
But the Su-57 has been in development nearly 15 years already, and Western analysts estimate that it still won’t be operational before 2027,” the authors noted, adding, “Russia has struggled to produce new jet engine models for several years because of sanctions and export restrictions imposed after it annexed Crimea in 2014.”
The situation has only gotten worse. Following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the flow of Western aerospace components has slowed to a trickle.
Likewise, Sukhoi may claim that the Su-75 Checkmate is a fifth-generation fighter, but questions linger as to whether it will have the advanced avionics and effective stealth capability to actually be considered as such.
These facts could explain why in October, Rostec head Sergey Chemezov told Kremlin officials that production would start in 2027 rather than 2025 as previously expected. Though Moscow had claimed four prototypes were being manufactured, the Checkmate still won’t be able to take its maiden flight until sometime in 2024 at the very earliest.
The change was confirmed by Russian Minister of Industry and Commerce Denis Manturov to the Interfax agency last August.
“Changes were made to the design, which corrected the time of the first flight. But at the same time, the principle of modularity and modern digital technologies made it possible to make these changes in the shortest possible time, and as early as 2024 we plan to start flight tests,” said Manturov.
UAE Pulled Its Support of Su-75
Russia had also sought to find potential foreign buyers for the Su-75 Checkmate in 2021 at the Dubai Air Show in the United Arabs Emirates (UAE).
The Middle Eastern nation had apparently even expressed interest in helping fund it as the deal to acquire the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fell apart.
In November 2021, Rostec held talks with Emirati businesses to co-produce the Checkmate, but less than a year later, the UAE pulled out of the program, which likely dried up a critical source of funding. It would suggest that the confidence from among the most likely buyers was gone – and with it, the Su-75 is unlikely to advance beyond the vaporware stage.
It is time for Russia to resign as the Checkmate is now out of moves.
Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.