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Russia unveils Sukhoi Checkmate (Su-75) low cost, high performance new light fighter jet

aerobd.news : Russia has unveiled the Sukhoi Checkmate, a new fifth-generation fighter jet intended to supplement the Su-57 and conquer the international market. A mockup of the aircraft was presented in a grand ceremony on the opening day of the MAKS airshow in Moscow on July 20, 2021.

“We have been working on the project for just slightly longer than one year. Such a fast development cycle was possible only with the help of advanced computer technologies and virtual testing,” Yuri Slyusar, CEO of United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), said at the event. The Sukhoi Su-75 will fly in 2023 and start deliveries in 2026, says United Aircraft (UAC), which unveiled Russia’s latest lightweight fighter design at a ceremony at the MAKS air show.

UAC chief executive Yuri Slyusar told those assembled that the single-engined jet – which had been earlier revealed as “Project Checkmate” – was “more than just a mock-up”. Instead, it is understood to be an engineering prototype for ground testing, including iron bird and copper bird functions. Although Slyusar did refer to the design as the Su-75, the right to confer designations traditionally belongs to Russia’s armed forces, once the aircraft is operational. He notes that the name is a deliberate reverse of the digits on Sukhoi’s twin-engined Su-57 stealth fighter, developed for the Russian air force.

Slyusar describes the Su-75 as an affordable fifth-generation fighter that offers high performance at low acquisition and sustainment costs. His boss, Sergei Chemezov, chief executive of Rostec, says the “flyaway” price of each aircraft will be between $20 million and $30 million. UAC is targeting 300 sales.
The Checkmate is going to be a fifth-generation single-engine supersonic fighter jet with stealth features, internal weapon bays, and short take-off capability. The type’s primary role will initially be aerial combat, with adaptations for ground attack, anti-ship, and reconnaissance following. The aircraft will have five internal weapons bays and a weapons load of up to 7.5t. Maximum speed is given as Mach 1.8, and range as 1,620nm (3,000km).

The manufacturer also claims that the jet is equipped with an advanced artificial intelligence system which acts as a “copilot”, as well as features high modularity and thus can be easily developed into different versions, such as twin-seat and unmanned, depending on the requirements of a client.

The jet is most likely going to be powered by the so-called Izdelye 30, an upcoming turbofan engine currently under development by Saturn, a subsidiary of Russia’s United Engine Corporation. The mass production of Izdelye 30 is slated for the mid-2020s.

The new aircraft has been at the center of an intense publicity campaign, with numerous teaser trailers and cryptic tweets released by Rostec and its subsidiaries through the last week. It has been speculated that the aircraft could be manufactured by MiG instead of Sukhoi, or that its designation is going to be Su-75, as per the fuselage number seen on the mockup. According to Slyusar, “75” was selected as a reversed “57”, showing the supplemental role of the aircraft (in relation to the Su-57), as well as because 7 and 5 are lucky numbers for Sukhoi.

According to Slyusar, the aircraft is expected to be purchased by Asian, Middle-Easter, African, European and Latin American states that look for an affordable alternative to existing fifth-generation single-engine fighter jets. Rostec’s market analysis shows that 300 such jets may be manufactured and sold, Rostec’s CEO said, although no negotiations have been started so far.

Rostec is a state-owned conglomerate which controls much of the country’s aviation industry, including United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) and its subsidiaries Sukhoi, MiG, and others.

As advertised, the Checkmate is expected to be a lighter, more affordable alternative to the Sukhoi Su-57 Felon, Russia’s first fifth-generation fighter jet which saw first deliveries to the Russian Air Force in late 2020.

“This is not a dream,” insists Slyusar. “We made a thorough assessment of the global market using a number of criteria and found that the demand for such an aircraft is large provided we bring the product to market quickly enough.” He admits that to do that within five-and-a-half years is challenging, but progress on the programme has allowed UAC to bring the entry-into-service target date forward from 2027.

UAC says the Su-75’s aerodynamic shape will give it better stealth credentials than existing lightweight fighters. Although it has not named an engine, it is believed to be considering a variant of the “Item 30” version of the NPO Saturn AL-41F1 being developed for the Su-57M. Mikhail Strelets, the chief designer who heads the project at Sukhoi, says the Su-75 will be equipped with an active electronically scanned array radar capable of tracking 30 targets simultaneously and guiding missiles against six of them.

Slyusar says the Su-75 is an industry-led initiative rather than a response to a specific Russian air force requirement. However, he is confident that Moscow will order a number of examples. A scheme of deploying a heavier fighter aircraft in smaller numbers and supplementing it with a different, lighter model was widely employed in the previous generation. A duo of the Su-27 and the MiG-29 composed the bulk of Soviet and later Russian fighter jet fleet, while the US Air Force employed the McDonnell Douglas F-15 and the General Dynamics F-16 in a similar manner.

Latest fifth-generation fighter jets appear to follow this pattern to some extent. The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II was conceived as a single-engine counterpart to the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, with which the Su-57 is often compared. Similarly, it is expected that the Chinese Shenyang FC-31 Gyrfalcon is going to be adopted to supplement the heavier Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon.

On the international market the Checkmate is bound to compete with both the F-35 and the FC-31, as well as several upcoming fifth-generation fighter jets, such as the Indian HAL AMCA. When asked to compare the new aircraft with the F-35, Sliusar said that Checkmate is more stealthy, as well as demonstrates a “Russian approach” to the problem of developing a fifth-generation fighter jet.
Russia’s trade and industry minister Denis Manturov says industry has been working on the fighter concept for four years, and notes that the Su-75 marks an attempt to re-enter a segment that was once served by the likes of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21.

Yuri Borisov, a deputy to the Russian prime minister with responsibility for the defence industrial sector, says potential customers include India, Vietnam and “African countries”.

Image Source: Vladimir Karnozov

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Rajowan Syed

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