Russia copies a feature of Northrop YF-23 into Checkmate LCA

A prototype of Russia's prospective fighter jet is displayed at the MAKS-2021 International Aviation and Space Salon in Zhukovsky outside Zhukovsky, Russia, Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

The prototype of the Sukhoi next-generation fighter was revealed at the MAKS-2021 International Aviation and Space Salon, Reuters reported. The show opened Tuesday in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow. It is expected to be airworthy by 2023 and the country plans to produce 300 of the fighters over 15 years starting in 2026, according to Reuters.

Like all other Russian fighters, the new fighter will also be a high-altitude all-weather fighter. Russia focused on cost vs quality and plans to develop the fighter as a light tactical fighter rather than a multirole fighter. No one expect Russia to have both quality and cost-effective aircraft. Its always quality must go if the cost has to be reduced. 

The competition

Russia’s newly unveiled Checkmate stealth fighter jet seems to have good prospects, and it is expected to be competitive against the FC-31 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 President Vladimir Putin got a sneak peek of a new next-generation lightweight single-engine fighter jet at an air show just outside of Moscow.

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.

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 Chinese FC-31 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.

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 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.


Under the project name Checkmate, the new warplane is a single-engine, next-generation fighter jet with a top speed of Mach 1.8, a range of 2,000 kilometers and a payload of 7,400 kilograms, AP reported, citing the aircraft’s makers.

Checkmate alongside infrared and radar-guided air-to-air missiles it is designed to carry.

The light fighter jet can carry two short-range, three medium-range missiles and anti-ship missiles with some bombs carrying capacity. The aircraft could carry a gun-pod if required by mission.

Klimov 93MA has been specially developed to power a single engine light fighter jets. Sukhoi will use the same engine for production variant Checkmate. The engine will have a dry thrust of 9300kgf.

The light combat aircraft will be fitted with the same passive sensor suit and avionics of the Su-57 with a phase array radar identical to that of Su-35. There will be an auxiliary power unit and oxygen tank for the pilots to survive in a high-altitude flight.

What else Russia copies from America for Checkmate?

The Global Defense Corp already reported that Checkmate’s divertless inlet is a copycat of Boeing’s X-32 aircraft.

A butterfly, or Vee, tail, which combines the effect of the rudder and the elevators. These are movable surfaces. They cause the aircraft to pitch up or down when they move together and yaw when they move differentially.

In the case of a conventional tail you have three intersections (fuselage – left elevator, fuselage – rudder, fuselage – right elevator), whereas for a V-tail you only have two (fuselage – left ruddervator, fuselage – right ruddervator). This reduces the interference drag. Look closely, the Checkmate copies another features of Northrop Grumman’s YF-23 called ruddervators, — still to date the ruddervators are not available in any Russian aircraft.

Cheap export markets

Dubbed a light tactical aircraft, the Checkmate is designed to be smaller and cheaper than Russia’s Su-57 two-engine fighter jet, Rostec, the state-owned aerospace conglomerate, said, adding it expected buyers from the Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to Reuters.

United Aircraft Corp.—parent company for all of Russia’s aircraft makers, including Sukhoi, Ilyushin, MiG, and Tupolev—says the Checkmate will fly in 2023, will be in series production in 2026, and will be offered for export at the bargain basement price of $25-$30 million per copy.

Judging from the airframe design, the Checkmate seems to have a lower radar visibility to the Su-57, allowing it to improved radar avoidance capacity, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the RPC run Global Times on Wednesday.

Dmitry Stefanovich, research fellow at the Centre for International Security, Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS) in Moscow, told CNN the focus of the Sukhoi fighter jet is likely to be on export and military-technical cooperation with other countries.

Countries such as Argentina, Vietnam, Algeria, and India may be the first to be lining up to sign contracts with Russia for the new jet, according to Mr Stefanovich.

Former chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said in a statement that India should not rush into signing a joint production contract with Russia as the IAF did for PAK FA project and lost $300 million of investment. Checkmate is a light tactical fighter and India already has a working light combat aircraft Tejas MK 1A, –should focus on building Tejas MK II, reported the Hindustan Times.

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