MOSCOW -- The main premiere of the 15th International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS-2021, opening on July 20 at the Zhukovsky airport near Moscow, was the latest Russian light tactical fighter jet, referred to as "Checkmate". The single-engine export-oriented aircraft is developed by Sukhoi (part of the United Aircraft Corporation of Rostec).
The head of Rostec Sergey Chemezov was interviewed by Dmitry Reshetnikov of RIA Novosti on various technical features of the new fighter, its export potential, capabilities on interacting with drones and further plans to create an unmanned fighter based on this particular design.
Reshetnikov: Could you give an introduction of the aircraft that was unveiled today?
Chemezov: It is a fifth-generation fighter with stealth capabilities and high flight performance. The model is equipped with advanced avionics and most capacious weapon bays within its class. In its stealth configuration, Checkmate is capable of carrying up to five air-to-air missiles of various ranges, as well as other aviation weapons. We actively used supercomputer technologies during the creation process, allowing to significantly save both time and funds spent on development and testing.
The aircraft has a unique set of flight and combat characteristics while maintaining an affordable price and relatively low operating cost per flight hour. For example, it has a maximum combat payload of 7,400 kilograms and a flight range of 2,900 kilometers without additional fuel tanks. These are remarkable numbers for a light single-engine plane.
I would like to note that this is not just a fighter jet, but a high-tech smart aviation platform, with open architecture and adaptability: it can be assembled in several configurations, based on concrete requirements of the customer. It also holds great potential for modernization.
The key concept of the project is summarized by its name, Checkmate. The role of the plane is similar to the knight piece from chess: maneuverable and capable of executing unexpected moves that decide the course of the game.
Reshetnikov: The plane has a prototype that is ready for testing. How does its design differ from older Su-57 or Su-35 models?
Chemezov: Both Su-57 and Su-35 are unique planes by their right, you could call them as part of the "major league." Nevertheless, their capabilities are limited and not fit for particular missions. Checkmate is a "lightweight" platform, optimal for solving urgent tasks with minimal financial costs. It has very high level of combat effectiveness considering its relatively low cost and cheap flight hour. Its advanced modern avionics allow it to engage in air combat and attack ground attacks with active phased array radar, providing effective targeting capabilities even under strong electromagnetic interference. At the same time, its electronic warfare equipment allows the plane to avoid detection and evade enemy weapons. Checkmate can use a full range of weapons to fight against any air, land, sea targets, as well as counteract most advanced anti-air defense systems.
Reshetnikov: How would you assess the export potential of the aircraft, what markets is it focused on?
Chemezov: Without a doubt, Checkmate has high export potential. It is capable of solving wide range of objectives faced by different customers, effectively destroying land and sea targets, and fighting for air supremacy against a numerically superior enemy. The combination of high combat payload, modern equipment and low cost per flight hour makes the aircraft extremely cost-effective considering its combat capabilities. The flexible use of various configurations allows to accurately customize it to meet the needs of almost any potential customer. We are offering the platform equipped with wide selection of modern avionics and armament. Each customer can choose exactly what he needs. Currently, potential customers include the countries of the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.
Reshetnikov: How will the after-sales service system work?
Chemezov: The Matryoshka automated logistic support system was specially created for this aircraft. It allows organizing personnel training, planning maintenance with high precision and delivering necessary components on time. The system will reduce after-sales service costs while increasing its efficiency, and ensure a high level of combat readiness of the fleet, even during high-intensity operations.
Reshetnikov: What plans do you have to further improve this platform?
Chemezov: Checkmate is the combat system of the future. It is possible to create an unmanned version of the plane based on unified aviation platform. Future versions will be able to execute coordinated group operations with both manned and unmanned vehicles, combined into one system. Unmanned wingmen will be able to exchange information, instantly react to a changing combat situation, and automatically distribute and perform even the most complex tasks.