Russia Preparing New ‘Checkmate’ Export Oriented Fifth Generation Fighter For Pre-Production

Russian state owned defence conglomerate Rostec reported on November 13 that preparations had begun to place the S-75 Checkmate fifth generation fighter into pre production. “On the basis of the work carried out, the design was modified, which also adjusted the date of the first flight. Today, the design documentation has been transferred to the production plant and preparations for the production of the first samples have begun,” the corporation’s press service informed state media, adding that the aircraft’s design had been adjusted on the basis of feedback from leading potential overseas clients. Doing so “has significantly increased the competitiveness and commercial attractiveness of the domestic single-engine aircraft and reduced the technical risks of its development,” it observed. The Checkmate was designed as a much lighter single engine counterpart to the heavyweight Su-57 twin engine fifth generation fighter primarily for export markets, with the Russian Defence Ministry’s own interest in the aircraft remaining uncertain due to its strong preference for larger longer range aircraft. 

The Checkmate fighter’s design was unveiled in mid-2021 four years after Russia and the United Arab Emirates announced work had begun on a joint fighter program to meeting the requirements of the Gulf state’s air force, with the program widely reported to have been financed by Abu Dhabi. Foreign interest in the fighter program is thought to have increased since the Russian Air Force gained considerable experience operating fifth generation fighters in high intensity combat environments, with the Su-57 having been deployed for a range of operations against Ukrainian targets. Beginning in March 2022, this has included complex missions such as air defence suppression and beyond visual range air to air combat. No other operator of fifth generation fighters has gained remotely comparable experience, which is expected to shape the Checkmate program’s development. Alongside the United Arab Emirates, leading potential clients for the Checkmate include India, Algeria, Turkmenistan, Iran and other major operators of the fighter’s fourth generation predecessor the MiG-29.