The 15th International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS-2021, which took place in Zhukovsky, near Moscow, from 20-25 July 2021, was marked with a sensational debut of thenewest Russian Light Tactical aircraft (LTS in Russian) nicknamed “TheCheckmate”.
The fighter was developed by the world famous Sukhoi, the UnitedAircraft Corporation (USC) subsidiary, now - a part of the Rostec Corporation whichgot the lion’s share of the UAC stakes in 2018.
The single engine machine has beenclaimed as an export-oriented fifth generation platform to arise a special interest forthe project concept.
The vehicle received unprecedented international interest thanks to Rostec’s uniqueaggressive marketing presentation which used to be more common to the West than toRussia. Since the Soviet Union times, the Russian military products have beendomestically oriented. First of all, they have come in service with the national ArmedForces. In a number of years they received the so called “export image passport” toreceive a permit for international sales. The only exception which could come across mymind is the Pantsir SHORADS being developed by the Shipunov KBP Design Bureau(nowadays the High Precision Weapons Holding subsidiary) on the contract with theUnited Arab Emirates (UAE) worth of USD 760 million.
Today, the Pantsir family systems are inservice with the Russian Army and Navy and have been sold internationally, but itsprime user were the UAE Armed Forces.
The Checkmate has been developed by Sukhoi in just four years due to the digitalprocess design to become a new fifth generation combat platform (or system inRussian).
According to a recent interview with Rostec’s CEO Sergey Chemezov, theaircraft was designed to enjoy stealth technology in combination with high flightperformance characteristics. He claimed that “the aircraft is equipped with advancedavionics and the most spacious internal weapons compartments in its class” beingcapable to carry “up to five air-to-air missiles of various ranges and other aviationweapons in an inconspicuous configuration» inside the airframe. The aircraftmaximum combat load is claimed to reach 7,400 kilograms, the flight range withoutadditional fuel tanks is estimated as 2,900 kilometers”
The Checkmate has been designed as a high-tech intelligent aviation platform. Due toan open architecture the aircraft can be tailored for a specific customer demand toenjoy a high potential for further upgrade. According to Mr. Chemezov, “theCheckmate is a “light” aviation complex for solving most combat tasks with minimalcosts”. The modern on-board equipment is suitable for air combat and ground targetsstrikes. It employs an active phased array antenna radar, which allows you to attacktargets even in conditions of strong interference. At the same time, the onboardelectronic suppression and defense system allows the aircraft to escape from detectionand destruction means.
“The Checkmate can employ a full range of weapons todestroy any air, land or sea targets including the most advanced means of airdefense,” added Mr. Chemezov.
The future system development includes an unmanned version of the Checkmate. TheUAVs could be used in combat together with the conventional machines, said theRostec CEO.
The Checkmate presentation to the Russian President Vladimir Putin took place onJuly, 20th and was followed by the enormous row of the foreign delegations to make theCheckmate pavilion the busiest one at MAKS-2021. Various potential customers fromthe Middle East, the Asia-Pacific region and LatinAmerica got a chance to acknowledge the vehicle. Mr. Chemezov also mentioned theMatryoshka after sales system which is intended «to organize personnel training, planmaintenance with high accuracy and deliver components in a timely manner. Thesolution will reduce the cost of after-sales service, increase its efficiency and ensure ahigh level of combat readiness of the fleet even during high-intensity flights”.
The Checkmate has been open for journalists and experts to witness its futuristicconcept of the composite materials, glass cockpit and a thrust vectoring engine.
The Sukhoi specialists have been optimistic on the Checkmate prospects. They claim it could become a kind of the MiG-21 successor in a view of the product numbers.
The single engine fighter being nicked as a “Fishbed” by NATO had become the world mostly produced combat aircraft being issued in over 14000 units in the USSR, Czechoslovakia, India and China in a period from 1959 till 2012.
According to Alexander Mikheev, Rosoboronexport CEO, a number of internationalpartners have stressed their interest “in the newest Checkmate light tactical aircraft”.He added that several potential customers were shown the aircraft live and even got achance to sit in the cockpit.
The Head of the Russian State mediator in defense trade noticed that Rosoboronexporthad totally used the MAKS-2021 opportunity by «signing 13 export contracts for thesupply of Russian military products worth more than 1 billion euros”.
Mr. Mikheev also added that Rosoboronexport has already signed in 2021 variouscontracts worth over 5 billion US$ with 80% share being related for aviation and airdefense equipment.
The company’s top selling products were mentioned to include Su-30SME aircraft,Mi-35M and Mi-17V5 helicopters, the Protivnik (“Adversary”)-GE radar, the Verba(‘Willow’) MANPADS, as well as modern aviation weapons, a number of armoredand automotive equipment samples.
Perhaps, the Checkmate may be able to repeat the Fishbed success story on a newlevel.
The local media mentioned an estimated price for a Checkmate unit around USD 25-30million times smaller than a tag of competitors. According to Yury Borisov, RussianVice-Prime Minister being responsible for defense industry, the so called “anchorcustomer” for Checkmate has already been determined.(Yury Laskin; Photo © Yury Laskin)