Russia, which has given the world the likes of MiG and Sukhoi, has unveiled a new fighter aircraft named ‘Checkmate’. The aircraft will compete against US’ F-35 in the international market.

Russian President Vladimir Putin inspected the homegrown second fifth-generation fighter aircraft at the MAKS-2021 air show in Moscow.

The jet is expected to take to the skies in 2023, with the first batch due to be produced in 2026. Moscow plans to produce 300 units of the aircraft over 15 years once serial production begins.

The fighter jet was unveiled by Russia and United Aerospace Company, an umbrella corporation that includes the famed Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) and Sukhoi design bureaus. The aircraft has an unusually pointy nose and an engine intake below the cockpit.

What is Checkmate?

The Checkmate has an internal weapons bay designed to preserve its anti-radar shaping and is capable of carrying both air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance. This includes both infrared and radar-guided air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground and anti-ship missiles, guided and unguided bombs, and unguided rockets.

Checkmate has been developed as a short takeoff-and-landing fighter jet that also allows it to operate from aircraft carriers and can travel up to 1,500 kilometers in a single sortie, while loaded with weapons and payload. Capable of continuous supersonic flight, the aircraft flies at 1,180 miles per hour at its top speed and can share data with other fighters in the air.

Rostec, Russia’s state aerospace and defence conglomerate, said the plane was hard to detect and would have low operating costs.

Low cost offers unique advantage against F-35

Reuters quoted Rostec’s chief Sergei Chemezov as saying the aircraft would cost $25 million to $30 million and Moscow expects demand from the Middle East, Asia Pacific region and Latin America. The cost is extremely low when compared to F-35, which comes at a price of over $75 million.

The company claims to develop the aircraft within 6 years of the orders, leveraging its experience from Sukhoi manufacturing. “Our aim is to make the cost per flight hour as low as possible, to make it economical not only to buy but also to operate,” Slyusar further told reporters.

Russia aims to lead

Russia has been a leader in aircraft manufacturing and currently has fourth-generation fighter jets that include the heavy-class Sukhoi Su-27 and light-class Mikoyan MiG-29. Moscow also boasts of one heavy-class fifth-generation fighter jet, the Su-57. “Light-class fighter jets are more in demand in the world than heavy-class ones – they are cheaper and more suitable for states that don’t have large territories,” Panteleyev told Reuters.

The Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jet was unveiled at the MAKS air show in 2011. Over the years, Moscow has invested heavily in military aircraft and new armaments, both for its own armed forces and also to boost export revenue from weapon sales.

India has been using Russian-made fighter jets, with the Sukhoi acting as a frontline multi-role aircraft apart from the MiG. However, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is phasing out its MiGs as it inducts the French Rafale and indigenous Tejas into the fold.

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