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Sukhoi’s new ‘Checkmate’ light fighter whets Asian interest at Moscow Airshow

Russia’s Sukhoi design bureau has revealed its new stealthy “Checkmate” light fighter that may give China a new design to compete with the U.S. F-35.
FPI / July 25, 2021


By Richard Fisher

It has been a long while since the biannual Moscow Airshow at Zhukovsky airfield outside Moscow has grabbed global attention. But this week’s show did so with the surprise introduction of the “Checkmate” 5th generation light fighter from the Sukhoi design bureau.

At first towed down a side taxiway under an obscuring cover, images of the uncovered fighter soon appeared, showing the Checkmate to be a stealthy light-fighter featuring a delta wing, canted twin tailerons, internal weapon carriage and an under-fuselage air intake with a stealth-enhancing diverter-less supersonic inlet (DSI).

Images of the fighter, which is most likely a plywood mockup, appear to confirm Russian reports that it has a maximum weight of about 18 tons, which puts this fighter in the class of the 19-ton Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter, though Checkmate is more likely pitched to compete with the 31-ton Lockheed F-35A.

At this lighter weight Checkmate may not have the range of the F-35, but its shape suggests an attention to low-observability. But on the critical matter of cost, it is certain that Checkmate will be less expensive than the $80 million F-35 and thus attractive to traditional customers of Russian lightweight fighters like India, Egypt…and China.

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FPI, Free Press International
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