Russia will begin mass-producing its new single-engine, fifth-generation fighter jet Checkmate in 2026, Yury Slyusar, the general director of the Russian United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), said on Sunday.
"The first flight of the fifth-generation fighter Checkmate is planned for 2023, serial production — in 2026," Slyusar said at the Dubai Airshow in the United Arab Emirates.
Meanwhile, simultaneous production of several cutting-edge fighter jets has already been started by a plant in the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in Russia's Far East region, according to the official.
"The Komsomolsk-on-Amur plant has started building several Checkmate [fighters] at the same time," Slyusar announced.
Details about Checkmate
The Checkmate is a fifth-generation light fighter jet, developed by the Sukhoi designer bureau (part of state corporation Rostec) and first unveiled at the MAKS-2021 international aviation and space salon in the Moscow Region in July.
The fighter jet was unveiled by Russia and United Aerospace Company — an umbrella corporation that includes the famed Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) and Sukhoi design bureaus.
Russian aircraft maker Sukhoi developed the new fighter under the LTS program, a Russian acronym for the Light Tactical Aircraft.
Its makers said the prototype is set to make its maiden flight in 2023 and deliveries could start in 2026. They said the new design could be converted to an unpiloted version and a two-seat model.
The prospective warplane, marketed under the project name Checkmate, has one engine and is designed to be smaller and cheaper than Russia’s latest Su-57 two-engine stealth fighter, also built by Sukhoi. It can fly at a speed of 1.8-2 times the speed of sound, has a range of 3,000 kilometres and a payload of 7,400 kilograms, the jet’s makers said.
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov earlier this year had 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. Borisov noted that one foreign customer he didn’t name has already expressed a strong interest in the new jet.
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 U.S. 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.
Sergei Chemezov, the head of Rostec state corporation that includes Sukhoi and other aircraft makers, said the new plane is expected to cost $25-30 million. He said that the Russian air force is also expected to place an order for the new fighter.
Russia’s Sukhoi and MiG aircraft makers only have produced two-engine fighters since the 1980s. Some experts observed that it has placed Russia at disadvantage in some foreign markets where customers preferred cheaper one-engine aircraft.
Rostec said the new warplane belongs to the so-called fifth generation of fighter jets, a definition that assumes stealth characteristics and a capability to cruise at supersonic speed, among other advanced features.
The corporation noted that the new design includes artificial intelligence features to assist the pilot and other innovative technologies. It said the jet was designed to reduce service costs and to be easily adapted to varying customer needs.
Manturov noted that the new design would incorporate some components from the previous fighters to help reduce the price.
With inputs from agencies