On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin inspected the country’s newly unveiled ‘Checkmate’ warplane. Reuters reported that a prototype of the Sukhoi fifth-generation stealth fighter was revealed at the MAKS-2021 International Aviation and Space Salon. The show opened in Zhukovsky, outside of Moscow, on Tuesday. The term fifth-generation describes the jet’s stealth characteristics, its ability to cruise at supersonic speeds, and its use of artificial intelligence to assist the pilots, among other advanced features. ‘Our aircraft manufacturing industry continues to create new competitive aircraft designs, as shown in Zhukovsky today’, Putin said in a speech at the show.
The jet’s design was aimed at reducing service costs. According to Reuters, Yury Slyusar, Russia’s head of the United Aircraft Corporation, said, ‘Our goal is to keep the cost per flight hour as low as possible’. The fighter is slated to be airworthy by 2023, and the country plans to produce 300 over 15 years beginning in 2026, according to Reuters. The head of the Russian Aviaport analytical agency believes the fighter jet could be a rival to the U.S. F-35 stealth fighter. After mentioning other foreign aircraft of a similar type, Industries and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said, ‘We must join them’.
Rostec, the state-owned aerospace conglomerate, said the jet would cost $25 million to $30 million, according to Reuters. The Russian air force is also expected to order the new fighter, according to Rostec. The designers said the new design could be made into an unpiloted version and a two-seater.
The project, marketed under the name Checkmate, has one engine and is intended to be smaller and cheaper than Russia’s two-engine Su-57 stealth fighter, also built by Sukhoi. In addition to flying at 1.8-2 times the speed of sound, the aircraft can travel 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) and carry 7,400 kilograms (16,300 pounds). Russian weapons exports have been dominated by the sales of warplanes, but the two-engine Su-30 and Su-35 fighters have seen growing competition in global markets.
Prior to the air show, Rostec ran an aggressive advertising campaign featuring a picture of the new fighter hidden beneath a black tarp with ‘Wanna see me naked?’ under it. In addition, it posted a video featuring customers from India, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Vietnam and other countries, reflecting the company’s hopes for export. During the tensions with the West that followed Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s the Crimean Peninsula, the Kremlin has made modernizing the country’s arsenals a key priority. Earlier this week, Russia warned Washington not to deploy hypersonic missiles in Europe.