There is a lot of interest in a secrecy-shrouded new Russian stealth fighter about to be unveiled at the MAKS air show in Moscow next week. The single-engine stealth fighter, made by Russian aircraft giant Sukhoi, is reportedly called ‘Checkmate.’ Should the U.S. and NATO be worried?
Well, maybe. It appears to be a state-of-the-art – but perhaps slightly less capable aircraft to Russia’s best 5th generation fighter, the larger twin engine SU-57 which first flew in 2010.
The Su-57, NATO code named ‘Felon,’ was built to match the U.S. F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, but unlike the U.S. aircraft, in service since 2005, the Su-57 is just beginning serial production. Meanwhile a new engine allowing the jet to cruise at supersonic speed is still under development.
The high cost of the aircraft has kept the financially strapped Russians from making a big production run of the ‘Felon; reportedly hoping for 78 of the top tier aircraft.
The Great Victory Parade rehearsal, takeoffs and landings of Su-57 fighters pic.twitter.com/rASx3PKZtk
— UAC Russia (@UAC_Russia_eng) May 5, 2021
Meanwhile, according to David Axe at Forbes:
Rostec, Sukhoi’s parent company, teased Checkmate in a video the firm released July 13. A few days later, photos circulated online depicting what appears to be a tarp-draped Checkmate demonstrator at Ramenskoye airfield, site of the MAKS show.
The teases have inspired frantic speculation about Checkmate’s design and capabilities. Samuel Bendett, an expert on the Russian military with the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C., said Checkmate is an export fighter—a relatively inexpensive, low-observable warplane that Sukhoi can sell to countries that the U.S. State Department won’t allow to buy the F-35.
Based on the English-language branding, and international aspect of the video, some analysts suspect ‘Checkmate’ could be strongly geared to the international foreign military sales market.
It’s probably not unimportant that Rostec’s branding at a Moscow air show for a new stealth fighter is all in English.
This suggests to me the target audience is the foreign market, not Russia’s MoD. pic.twitter.com/1ud8D1ZIZt
— Steve Trimble (@TheDEWLine) July 15, 2021
Stripes reported that:
The new Russian warplane appears intended to compete with the U.S. F-35 Lightning II fighter, which entered service in 2015. Russia hopes to eventually offer the new aircraft to foreign customers.Rostec, the state corporation that includes Russian aircraft makers, said the “fundamentally new military aircraft” will be unveiled Tuesday at the show.
In an apparent bid to raise public interest before the presentation, Rostec published a picture of the new plane covered by tarpaulin with “wanna see me naked?” written under it. It also posted a brief video featuring excited foreign customers and the jet’s vague shadow over the water.
— Ростех (@RostecRussia) July 15, 2021
While the, likely, less expensive new aircraft could be intended for export, Axes adds: “Checkmate, in theory, could [also] complement the Su-57 and help the Russian air force to field a “high-low” mix of twin- and single-engine stealth fighters. That’s what the U.S. Air Force is doing—acquiring hundreds of F-35s to complement 180 or so twin-engine F-22s.”
Russia’s Aerospace Forces (renamed in 2015) is still reportedly determined to get all 78 Su-57s it has planned. So, the answer to the question of whether the U/S. and NATO should be worried, is – Well, maybe a little. Let’s see. ADN