Military Aviation

Sukhoi officially Unveils the Checkmate, allegedly codenamed “Screamer” by US Intelligence

The new aircraft is likely to be touted as a rival to the US F-35 stealth fighter, hence its name Checkmate.

On Jul. 20, 2021 at its annual MAKS, air show held in Moscow with an eye on export markets, Russia officially unveiled the new Sukhoi “Checkmate” fifth-generation fighter jet.

The head of the Aviaport analytical agency, Oleg Panteleyev, said that the new aircraft is likely to be touted as a rival to the US F-35 stealth fighter, hence its name Checkmate.

The head of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), Yury Slyusar, told reporters that the Checkmate will perform its maiden flight in 2023 with the first samples due to be delivered in 2026. As reported by Reuters, he added that Russia aims to build 300 of the aircraft over 15 years once serial production begins.

Rostec, Russia’s state aerospace and defence conglomerate, said the plane was hard to detect and would have low operating costs.

The RIA news agency reported that Rostec’s chief, Sergei Chemezov, said that it will cost between $25 million and $30 million. Russia expect to sell the aircraft to nations in the Middle East, Asia Pacific region and Latin America.

“Our aim is to make the cost per flight hour as low as possible, to make it economical not only to buy but also to operate,” explained Slyusar.

‘RUMINT has it that the US-Codename should be ‘Screamer’ – which in turn would indicate a SAM. So, don’t hold your breath,’ says world famous aviation author and The Aviation Geek Club Contributor Tom Cooper. ‘Anyway… aerodynamically, I would like to see the total wing surface. Think it’s very big for this ‘small’ design – and that because something is telling me it’s actually optimised to operate very high.’

The new Russian single-engine fighter in the F-35 class recalls designs dating back to the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) competition of the 1990s; borrowing most from the two concepts that lost that contest, Air Force Magazine highlighted.

The aircraft features a large angular chin inlet reminiscent of Boeing’s X-32 contender in the JSF contest ultimately won by Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and also on China’s J-10B.

The Checkmate also inherited another feature of the X-32: a short, clipped delta wing, which does not extend to the tail. The Screamer also has two canted elevons rather than a standard empennage of stabilizers and elevators, harkening to both the X-32 and McDonnell Douglas’s JSF entrant, as well as to the YF-23 on which McDonnell Douglas was partnered with Northrop. The YF-23 lost out to the Lockheed Martin F-22 in the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) competition, and McDonnell Douglas’s loss in the must-win JSF contest was a major factor in the company’s 1996 merger with Boeing.

Moscow already fields heavy-class fifth generation fighter jet, the Su-57, besides the “legacy” heavy-class Sukhoi Su-27 and light-class Mikoyan MiG-29. However, the stealth Su-57 has no light-class equivalent, Panteleyev pointed out.

“Light-class fighter jets are more in demand in the world than heavy-class ones – they are cheaper and more suitable for states that don’t have large territories,” he told Reuters.

In 2011, Russia used the MAKS air show to unveil the Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter.

Photo credit: Sputnik/Alexei Nikolskyi/Kremlin via REUTERS

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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