It has one engine, can fly at Mach 2, has a range of 3,000 kilometers and can carry 7,400 kilograms — and sports a smokin’ hot design.
Marketed under the project name Checkmate, it is smaller and cheaper than Russia’s latest Su-57 two-engine fighter, has stealth capabilities and other advanced technology.
And it can be yours, for just US$25-$30 million — a fraction of the cost, of American or European equivalents.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his entourage, personally attended the unveiling of the prototype jet at the MAKS-2021 International Aviation and Space Salon, which opened Tuesday in Zhukovsky, just outside Moscow, Associated Press reported.
“What we see now in Zhukovsky obviously demonstrates that the Russian aviation has high potential for development,” said Putin, at the start of the aviation show. “Our aircraft industry also continues creating new competitive aviation equipment.”
The plane was designed by Sukhoi, part of the Rostoc conglomerate, for the Light Tactical Aircraft program. It is expected to make its maiden flight in 2023 with deliveries starting in 2026.
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov voiced hope that the new fighter could be sold to India, Vietnam and African nations, adding that foreign customers are expected to order at least 300 such aircraft.
The sales of warplanes have accounted for the bulk of Russian weapons exports, but the two-engine Su-30 and Su-35 fighters have faced growing competition in global markets.
Industries and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said that the prospective fighter was being developed to compete with the US F-35 Lightning II fighter that entered service in 2015, a new Chinese fighter, and other designs.
“We must join other nations that sell such aircraft,” he said.
This configuration would help provide steady airflow to the engine across a wide operating envelope without complex mechanical systems and controls, but it would also work to help block the engine fan face from radar waves from most angles.
The aircraft also has a slide-back bubble canopy like the Su-57 Felon, the advanced heavy fighter that this design likely shares a lot of subsystem architecture and other technology with, War Zone reported.
The staple infrared search and track system housing is mounted in front of the canopy as it is on all of Russia’s modern fighters.
The aircraft does indeed have a pair of tailerons splayed out at an angle instead of a traditional vertical and horizontal stabilizer arrangement. This configuration can offer high maneuverability, reduced radar signature, and helps in reducing infrared signature from many aspects.
The Checkmate jet is also painted in a splotched grey and taupe scheme on its upper fuselage with a baby blue underside.
This counter-shading-like concept is common for modern Russian aircraft and is most similar to schemes worn by the Su-57. It wears a bort number of Blue 75 (maybe for Su-75?) and the Russian red star on its tail.
Perhaps the biggest new detail, according to War Drums, is what looks like an elongated, relatively narrow, conformal weapons bay situated forward of the landing gear.
It is hard to draw many distinct conclusions, but it appears to be best suited for a single air-to-air missile, likely of a shorter-range nature.
Sergei Chemezov, the head of Rostec state corporation that includes Sukhoi and other aircraft makers, said the new plane is expected to cost US$25-$30 million, AP reported.
He said that the Russian air force is also expected to place an order for the new fighter.
Meanwhile, a Russian aircraft manufacturer unveiled a cutting-edge unmanned aerial vehicle, the “ZALA VTOL,” at the MAKS 2021 Space Salon.
The drone monitors and takes aerial photos of areas difficult to reach by ordinary military vehicles. It is also capable of creating photographic maps to secure armed forces’ ground facilities, the Defense Post reported.
The company, ZALA Aero Group, explained that the electric propulsion system in the new craft allows the vehicle to stay in the air for four hours and travel at a maximum range of 200 kilometers (124 miles).
“The ZALA VTOL combines the properties of an airplane type drone and a tilt-rotor aircraft. The flight configuration changes depending on the assigned mission,” ZALA Aero Group remarked.
In addition to the ZALA VTOL, Russia has unveiled the BAS-200 small rotary-wing drone equipped with a mobile control post mounted on a car trailer. It monitors terrain and delivers cargo of up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds).
Sources: Associated Press, The War Zone, Business Insider, Forbes Magazine, The Defense Post