Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi has unveiled its new cost-efficient fighter jet prototype dubbed the ‘Checkmate’.
The aircraft was displayed at the 15th MAKS air show held at Zhukovsky International Airport in Russia, but reportedly revealed to President Vladmir Putin earlier in the day.
The single-engine jet is the corporation’s fifth-generation fighter, capable of carrying a maximum payload of 7,400 kilograms with a flight range of 2,900 kilometres.
The general director of Sukhoi’s parent company Rostec, Yury Slyusar, presented the warplane, alongside Sergey Chemezov, the head of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), which is also part of Rostec.
Chemezov said in an interview with RIA Novosti that the aircraft would be “equipped with advanced avionics and most capacious weapon bays within its class”.
“The key concept of the project is summarised by its name, Checkmate,” he said. “The role of the plane is similar to the knight piece from chess: manoeuvrable and capable of executing unexpected moves that decide the course of the game.”
The jet is set to be used for “solving urgent tasks”, while avoiding detection from enemy weapons through its electronic warfare equipment.
Russia plans to manufacture 300 of the jets over 15 years, expected to be in service by 2026, Slyusar told reporters.
According to Oleg Panteleyev, head of the Aviaport analytical agency, the jet will be the US Air Force’s F-35 stealth fighter opponent.
The state-owned jet includes various new capabilities, but is mostly praised for its reasonably lower costs – selling for roughly $30 million per unit.
Its siblings in its “major league” family, the SU-57 and the SU-35, are drastically higher in price, making the Checkmate the cheapest per flight hour.
The SU-57 is reportedly closer to $100 million per unit, and the SU-35 is around $85 million.
In comparison to its US competitor, the F-35 military jet is also around $80 million per unit.
According to Chemezov, the SU-57 and SU-35 capabilities are “limited and not fit for particular missions” – the Checkmate is said to be far lighter.
He said its market will have high potential as it can adapt to a range of capabilities different customers may want.
Moscow expects demand from the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America regions.
Dmitry Stefanovich, research fellow at the Center for International Security, Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS), told CNN that UAE, Argentina, Vietnam and India will be the first to buy the jet.
“This is a game-changing offer on the market,” he said. “It’s been a long time since Russia demonstrated single-engine fighters.”