Hello defence lovers! Russia has finally unveiled its new single-engine 5th generation Fighter “Checkmate” which they have been teasing for quite a long period of time. In this article, we are going to discuss whether this new Russian fighter will be a game-changer for Russia in the export market. We will also discuss if this fighter is relevant for the Indian Airforce.
Russia released a teaser film where it targeted its potential export customers. The video created hype for this fighter on social media. From the video, it was evident that the fighter is going to be a single-engine fighter dedicated to the export market. The fighter now named “Checkmate” was unveiled yesterday (20th July) at the MAKS Airshow in Moscow.
The fight generation fighter Checkmate is going to be a single-engine supersonic fighter jet with stealth features, internal weapon bays, and short take-off capability. According to Rostec, the maximum speed of the aircraft is Mach 1.8, the range is 2,800 kilometres (1,740 miles), and the payload capacity is 7,400 kilograms (16,300 pounds). For a single-engine fighter, these numbers are pretty impressive.
The jet will be powered by Izdelye 30, an upcoming turbofan engine currently under development by Saturn. It will be equipped with most of the technologies that are onboard the Su 57. It will also have an AI-based Co-pilot which will assist the Human pilot in the missions.
Production Time Line
The Checkmate is expected to fly its maiden flight by 2023, the same year when Tejas MK 1A will make its first flight. It is expected that it will hit its mass production by 2027, which is practically feasible and not that late. India’s Tejas MK II is also expected to roll out at that time.
Now here comes the most crucial factor. According to Rostec’s chief, Sergei Chemezov, it would cost $25 million to $30 million. For comparison, a Tejas costs roughly between $50 to $60 million and f-16 costs around $70 million. If we take inflation into account, by the time Checkmate will hit mass production, even if the rate doubles, i.e $50 to $60 million, it will still be a very attractive price.
If the fighter hits the production timely, it will have tremendous export potential. Russia is looking forward to exporting these fighters to Vietnam, UAE, Argentina and India. It will compete with the F 35 in the international market. Those countries which cannot afford to buy F 35 either to due financial conditions or due to relations with America will find Checkmate very attractive. American equipment may be reliable but their suppliers are not. This equipment comes with a huge list of terms and conditions. There are no such issues with Russian equipment. However Russian equipment will invite sanctions under CAATSA due to the American Hegemony.
Checkmate From The Indian Perspective
Russia has displayed the fullscale mockup of Checkmate in the MAKS airshow. It will be interesting to see whether the specifications on the paper reflect in the actual prototype. The Russians claim that the serviceability of this fighter will be significantly improved, which was the major concern with the Russian platforms.
If this fighter comes at the promised cost, it will be a great choice for IAF especially under MMRAC 2.0. The cost has always been a major hindrance in all these deals. As of now, Rafale seems to be the most relevant choice for IAF. However, it is also one of the most expensive fighters in the competition. Purchasing 110 Rafale will put too much burden on the Indian Government. It is likely that like before the government will go for 36 more Rafale instead. Now if we consider Checkmate, almost 3 fighters can be bought at the cost of a single Rafale. Looking at the current scenario quantity is also a significant factor along with the quality.
One should note that the Indian airforce has time and again clarified that it supports indigenisation. Thus indigenous programs like Tejas, MWF and AMCA are a necessity and must not be compared with MMRCA 2.0. Thus procuring Checkmate won’t hamper the Indian fighter programs.
Like the other Russian platforms, checkmate will also provide flexibility in customizing the fighter according to the customer’s needs. Thus Indian systems can be integrated easily with it. India has been using Russian fighters for a very long time, thus logistics will be easy for this aircraft as well.
Checkmate will however complement the heavy fighters like AMCA and SU 30 along with Tejas and MWF. The Heavy and Light fighter combination of IAF has been quite successful. Checkmate will also fit perfectly in this model.
As per the Russian Claims, the Checkmate is quite an interesting fighter. If the Russians match the projected timeline and deliver the fighter at the promised cost, it can definitely achieve the desired export target and give tough competition to the F 35.