The new jet is the Russian government’s bet on exports and could end with the supremacy (air and in the market) of the American F-35.
Russia unveiled the prototype of the new stealth combat jet Sukhoi “Checkmate” during MAKS-2021, International Aviation and Space Exhibition, in Zhukovsky, on Tuesday. The first flight is scheduled for 2023.
The new fighter was developed by the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), a joint venture between the mythical Russian manufacturers Mikoyan-Guervich (MiG) and Sukhoi.
The president of Rostec, the state-owned military material company that exports Russian products, Sergey Chemezov, and the general director of the UAC , Yury Slyusar, presented the new jet to Vladimir Putin.
The UAC statement, quoted by CNN, states that the jet “combines innovative solutions and technologies” and that it has “low visibility and high-flight performance“. The company expects jet deliveries to begin in 2026.
Slyusar, on the other hand, reinforced on Russian public television that the plane has a “combat radius of 1500 kilometres, greater ratio between thrust and weight, shortened take-off and landing, more than seven tons of combat payload, which is a absolute record for an airplane of this class”.
The jet has a very sharp nose, which is unusual, and the engine inlet under the cockpit. The “Checkmate” carries air-to-air and air-to-ground artillery, it is capable of carrying guided or unguided pumps and includes air-to-air, air-to-ground, and anti-ship missiles, guided by infrared and radar.
The plane will have a maximum speed of 1900 kilometers per hour and can share data in the air with other jets. The “Checkmate” will also have an unmanned version, which opens up the possibility of only a piloted jet can control others unmanned during a battle.
UAC and the Russian government seem to be bet a lot on exports of the “Checkmate”, according to Popular Mechanics, as the speeches were in Russian, but the presentations describing the jet were in English. Putin may also be looking for a partner to help develop the plane, as India initially did with the Su-57.
A promotional video released by Rostec also included pilots of various nationalities, which once again suggests that Russia wants to invest in the export of the jet. According to ABC, Chemezov estimates the plane will cost between 25 and 30 million dollars (between 21 and 25 million euros) and that the Russian armed forces will place orders for “Checkmate”.
Dmitry Stefanovich, a researcher at the Center for International Security in Moscow, tells CNN that the new jet will bring many changes to the market. “It has been a long time since Russia showed jets with only one engine”, he says, stressing that he believes that countries like Argentina, the United Arab Emirates or India may be among the first interested in acquiring the planes.
Putin praised the Russian aviation industry in the opening speech of the event: “What we see today in Zhukovsky clearly shows that Russian aviation has great potential development, and our industry continues to create competitive aircraft.”
The “Checkmate” was made to fight head-to-head with the F-35 joint attack jet, from the US, both in the skies and in the export market. According to Popular Mechanics, it’s still too early to tell whether this new jet will wipe out the F-35 market, but if UAC can keep costs down and meet development goals on time, F-35 sales may be affected.