Russia’s newly unveiled Checkmate stealth fighter jet seems to have good prospects, and it is expected to be competitive against the US F-35 in the international arms market. It may also affect the export of warplanes made by China like the FC-31, though Chinese military observers say the FC-31 still holds an advantage.
Russian aircraft maker Sukhoi introduced a prototype of the new fighter jet at the MAKS-2021 International Aviation and Space Salon in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, on Tuesday, AP reported on the day.
Under the project name Checkmate, the new warplane is a single-engine, fifth-generation fighter jet with a top speed of Mach 1.8 to 2, a range of 3,000 kilometers and a payload of 7,400 kilograms, AP reported, citing the aircraft’s makers.
Dubbed a light tactical aircraft, the Checkmate is designed to be smaller and cheaper than Russia’s Su-57 two-engine stealth fighter jet, costing only $25-30 million, and both the Russian air force and foreign military forces including those in India, Vietnam and African countries could buy the aircraft, according to the report.
Judging from the aerodynamic design, the Checkmate seems to have a superior stealth capability to the Su-57, allowing it to better avoid radar detection, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Domestically, the Russian air force could use it to replace older aircraft, and on the international market, the new plane will put up fierce competition against the US’ F-35 stealth fighter jet, Wei said, noting that to achieve this, the Russian aircraft maker must also move fast before new fighter jet projects from other countries begin to bear fruit.
AP reported that the prototype is expected to make its maiden flight in 2023 and deliveries could start in 2026.
This means that even if a country buys the Checkmate, it will still be years before it offers combat capability, Wei said.
The Checkmate will also be a direct competitor to China’s medium-sized stealth fighter jet, the FC-31, on the international arms market, and Wei said that China’s product has already made test flights, and is a step ahead of the Checkmate in terms of development progress.