Rostec to unveil a new aircraft at MAKS 2021 airshow

Russia lost potential buyers of MiG-35 to Sino-Pak JF-17 Block II and fear that JF-17 Block III could reduce the market further. Russia lost Indian market to domestic Tejas and French Dassault Rafale.

After months of speculation, that something top secret and special was happening at Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation, the countdown has begun.

UAC, part of the Russian state corporation Rostec, has teased the reveal of a new fighter jet on July 20, 2021, on the first day of the MAKS 2021 International Aviation and Space Salon in Zhukovsky, Aerotime Hub reported.

The upcoming aircraft, dubbed “Checkmate,” could be a light fighter jet “with a supersonic speed capability and low radar signature,” a source told Russian news agency TASS.

And according to a newly released trailer (attached below), this aircraft could be mainly oriented towards export.

“Russia is one of the few countries in the world with full-cycle capacities for producing advanced aircraft systems, as well as a recognized trendsetter in the creation of combat aircraft,” a Rostec spokesman commented.

“The new product developed by UAC specialists should arouse genuine interest not only in our country but also in other regions of the world, including our competitors abroad.”

In teasing its release, a press statement by Rostec gave props to Russia as one of the few countries in the world which had “full-cycle technologies for the production of advanced aircraft systems.,” Newsweek reported.

It says the upcoming unveiling will be of a “fundamentally new military aircraft.”

It also praised Russia’s status as a world leader in “making combat aircraft,” suggesting that the new plane could be a fighter jet.

“We are convinced that the new product developed by UAC specialists will arouse genuine interest not only in our country but in other regions of the world, including our competitors abroad,” the statement added.

Chess is a motif of the aircraft’s promotion which is surrounded by mystery.

At midnight Monday, the UAC website launched a countdown clock next to an image of a black knight chess piece. It invited web users to “turn the chessboard” and view a 34-second trailer.

Adding to the intrigue is a tweet in Russian on the UAC Twitter account that says: “everything is easier than it seems. #checkmate. Something is planned.”

Meanwhile, Defenseworld.net noted that Rostec had previously said it was developing a single-engine fighter jet.

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Russia lost potential buyers of MiG-35 to Sino-Pak JF-17 Block II and fear that JF-17 Block III could reduce the market further. Russia lost Indian market to domestic Tejas and French Dassault Rafale.

It reported that speculation also included other possibilities such as a down-sized Su-57, or a 4.5 generation jet to challenge the F-16 Viper and the Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 Block III.

The War Zone also reported that the shadow of an aircraft over water in Rostec’s promotional video was similar to the Mikoyan MiG-35 multirole fighter jet.

There is strong speculation that Russia intends to do a hard sell with India.

For more than a decade, Russia has been attempting to sell the MiG-35 (NATO code name Fulcrum), an upgraded version of the MiG-29 fighter, to the Indian Air Force.

The Indian Air Force was apparently not impressed with the Fulcrum, but Russia has continued to describe India as a prospective buyer. 

According to The Week Magazine, in May of this year, Russian news agencies reported the Sukhoi design bureau was developing a single-engine fighter. 

At the time, TASS had reported, “The Sukhoi company is developing a single-engine light tactical plane with the take-off weight of up to 18 tonnes. The plane’s maximum speed will be above 2 Mach (twice the speed of sound).

“It will also have super-manoeuvrability and improved take-off and landing performance, thanks to a thrust vector control engine …”

If confirmed as a single-engine fighter, the new fighter could be considered the Russian counter to the US F-35 project, which has been developed with industrial partnerships with multiple nations such as the UK, Australia, Italy and Israel.

That would also make the “Checkmate” name apt. Especially if the price point is much lower than the F-35 or other US and European fighter jets, currently being offered.

The 2021 edition of the MAKS International Aviation and Space Salon is to take place at Zhukovsky airport near Moscow from July 20 to 25, 2021.

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