Sanctions-hit Russia wants India to bail out Su-75 Checkmate project

Russia is seeking India’s cooperation in the Su-75 Light Tactical Aircraft “Checkmate” project. 

An official of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec told the Russian state news agency TASS that an offer would be made to the Indian authorities during the Aero India aviation exhibition set to take place in Bengaluru between February 13 and 17, 2023. 

“A delegation of representatives of our aircraft-building companies will attend the Aero India air show,” the source told TASS. “We plan to discuss cooperation in fifth-generation aircraft. In particular, there is the intention to invite our Indian partners to join the Checkmate light tactical fighter project.” 

The Checkmate is going to be a fourth generation single-engine supersonic fighter jet with new features, internal weapon bays, and short take-off capability. According to Rostec, the maximum speed of the aircraft will be Mach 1.8, the range 2,800 kilometers (1,740 miles), and the payload capacity 7,400 kilograms (16,300 pounds).

The project was revealed at the MAKS airshow in July 2021. From its inception, the aircraft was targeted at Asian, Middle Eastern, African, European, and Latin American states looking for a lighter, more affordable (and non-US…) alternative to existing fifth-generation fighter jets. 

Unconfirmed rumors stated that the Checkmate was already the result of a collaboration between Russia and the United Arab Emirates. In February 2017, during the IDEX conference in Abu Dhabi, Rostec signed a deal with the UAE Ministry of Defence for the joint development of a light fifth-generation fighter jet. However, the UAE authorities have not claimed paternity of the Checkmate since it was unveiled. 

Russia needs India’s fund

It is not the first time Russia has sought such cooperation with India. In 2007, the two countries signed a contract for Sukhoi and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to jointly explore the development of a derivative of the Su-57 Felon fifth-generation fighter jet that would fit the needs of the Indian Air Force. Called the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) in India, it was eventually abandoned in 2018 over workshare and cost concerns. 

Since the turn of the century, India has been attempting to increase its industrial capacities in terms of defense, recently materialized with the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative of the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. This led to some indigenous creations, such as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas or the INS Vikrant aircraft carrier. 

However, its design and production capabilities have not yet caught up to its needs. Consequently, India is running several parallel programs to equip its air force and naval aviation. The most substantial currently ongoing is the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) tender, with the potential acquisition of 114 new fighters for the IAF.  

India’s HAL is also working on its own fifth-generation fighter jet project, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

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