Since being introduced at the MAKS-2021 International Air Show in Moscow in July, Russia’s recently unveiled fifth-generation “Checkmate” fighter has been on a sort of world tour. Rostec, the state-owned, high-tech defense conglomerate, may be looking to stir up interest among foreign buyers—and this week it was announced that the single-engine combat aircraft will be demonstrated at the Dubai Airshow.
Set to run from November 14 to 18, the biennial airshow in the United Arab Emirates has grown in size and stature since it began in 1986. Today, it is now one of the largest such events in the world, and it is often where notable civilian and military aircraft are presented for the first time. While the Checkmate already had its “big reveal” moment, the aircraft will still likely attract a lot of interest next week in Dubai.
“The Checkmate has evoked a great interest abroad,” a source in Russia’s aerospace industry told TASS on Tuesday. “The United Arab Emirates is an excellent venue for presenting the aircraft to a broad group of potential partners. There are plans to hold a series of closed-door presentations for the airshow participants and an open presentation for visitors and media representatives.”
As noted, this could also be an attempt for Moscow to drum up foreign interest in the fifth-generation aircraft, which has been widely touted as an affordable alternative to the U.S. F-35 Lightning II.
Alexander Mikheyev, CEO of the Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, a subsidiary of Rostec, told TASS last month that potential foreign customers displayed an enhanced interest in the Checkmate state-of-the-art single-engine tactical fighter. He added that the new fighter remains in high demand and that the air forces of multiple South American countries have expressed a need for aircraft.
The capabilities of the Checkmate aren’t fully known, but it is essentially a derivative of the Su-57 fifth-generation fighter and, thus, not an entirely new platform. Russian state media has noted the new single-engine fighter is still based around stealth technology, while it is also outfitted with an inboard compartment—much like the F-35—for airborne air-to-air and air-to-surface armaments. The Checkmate can also reportedly carry a payload in excess of seven tonnes and will be capable of striking up to six targets at a time.
The Russian fifth-generation fighter, which will be outfitted with a highly efficient powerplant, is reported to be capable of flying at Mach 1.8 (1.8 times the speed of sound), and it has an official operating range of three thousand kilometers.
According to Rostec, the new fighter is expected to take to the skies in 2023, while its manufacturer said it will launch the combat plane’s serial production beginning in 2026. Even though it is a derivative of the Su-57, the timeline seems to be ambitious, to say the least. But Moscow often has a tendency to introduce hardware that is poised to be a game-changer, only for it to take years for the radically advanced hardware to actually enter service. In this case, however, Russia may have sought to develop first and bring to market second since this one is meant for export—and possibly to help ramp up production of the domestic Su-57.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.