Rostec’s Checkmate fifth-generation fighter has appeared at the Dubai Airshow, spurring a renewed wave of foreign and Russian interest.
"You have seen the aircraft yourselves,” said Sergei Chemezov, CEO of Russian industrial giant Rostec. “We have developed a nice and good aircraft. The United Arab Emirates has already displayed its interest in it and wants to examine the aircraft more closely and discuss it.” The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was one of four countries—with the others being India, Vietnam, and Argentina—identified as a prospective customer in Checkmate’s early promotional materials.
"We have one major advantage compared to all the other [foreign] aircraft,” Chemezov added. “First of all, this is an open configuration plane: we are offering the platform that can carry any armaments that the customer may wish. Besides, we outfit it with various electronics, electronic warfare systems, target acquisition capabilities and so on.” Reiterating the information provided during Checkmate’s debut presentation at the MAKS-2021 airshow earlier this summer, the Rostec CEO noted that the fighter comes with a wide range of customizable options.
"And, of course, the price will vary, depending on these options. I hope that the baseline price will be around $30-35 million," Chemezov added. However, Chemezov indicated in July that the fighter’s flyaway cost would be $25-30 million per unit. It is unclear what accounts for this discrepancy— though Rostec could possibly have decided to adjust the baseline price by around $5 million between July and November, the difference is small enough that it could feasibly be attributed to a misstatement on Chemezov’s part.
Chemezov confirmed at the Dubai Airshow that Russia’s Defense Ministry plans to procure the Checkmate fighter for the Russian military, adding that Rostec is waiting for the government to specify which configuration it wants to buy the fighter in. “They wanted to have some [Checkmate fighters], of course. We recently discussed with the minister [of defense] that they need to come up with mission requirements stating what configuration they are looking for in the jet. The configuration that we have made now was funded by us and the Russian Industry and Trade Ministry.’’
Deputy prime minister Yuri Borisov revealed earlier in September that Russia’s Defense Ministry could procure a batch of Checkmate fighters “under a future state program for armaments.” Borisov argued that a domestic order could help spur foreign interest in the new fighter. “This is a major export potential factor. Foreign customers are always keen to know if the country’s national armed forces use the military technologies that are on offer for export,” he said.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.