Everything you need to know about Russia’s Checkmate Fighter Jet

Everything you need to know about Russia’s Checkmate Fighter Jet
Sukhoi Su-75 CheckMate – Credits: screenshot from Rostec live streaming

The Sukhoi Su-75 CheckMate, also known as the Light Tactical Aircraft, or LTS in Russian was formally unveiled at the opening of the MAKS international air show at Zhukovsky.

The event was streamed online on Youtube by Rostec, Russia’s state aerospace, and defence conglomerate, and, despite the quality of the feed and the fact that all the commentary was in Russian, this gave us an opportunity to virtually attend the presentation.

Here are some interesting things we have noticed in the presentation.

First of all, the presentation highlighted the advanced technology the aircraft is going to embed: the fifth-generation lightweight single-engine fighter is said to “combine innovative solutions and technologies, including artificial intelligence support for the pilot’s work, as well as proven solutions that have already proven themselves in practice. The fighter has low visibility and high flight performance. Supercomputer technologies are widely used in the work on the LTS Checkmate project.” The presentation also mentioned voice command capability and showed a glass cockpit with a wide angle HUD (Head Up Display).

A glimpse into the Checkmate’s cockpit — also a mock-up, of course — reveals a single, large-area display dominating the control panel, plus a smaller display above it, together with a traditional central control stick and a conventional-looking head-up display.

The aircraft’s intake has been one of its most debated features over the last week. New imagery shows the angular ventral inlet, which wraps around the lower nose section, to share features with a diverterless supersonic inlet (DSI) design, but exactly how mature Russia’s take on this concept is, remains to be seen.

An AESA radar housed in the new aircraft’s nose section was shown, along with missiles in the side weapons bay.

In terms of new developments, we now know that, as suspected, there is a larger main weapons bay within the lower fuselage. This is designed to accommodate three examples of the RVV-BD air-to-air missile, the export version of the very-long-range R-37M, or AA-13 Axehead, a weapon that you can read more about here. Furthermore, we now have confirmation that the long, conformal weapons bays located forward of the main landing gear are indeed intended to house smaller air-to-air missiles, for close-range defense.

Performance-wise, the manufacturer is apparently claiming a short takeoff and landing capability (rather than a full short takeoff and vertical landing capability, as in the F-35B), a range of up to 1,860 miles, combat radius of 930 miles, and a payload in excess of 15,000 pounds.  

An official press release from Rostec provides few further details about the LTS but does claim that there is “artificial intelligence support for the pilot’s work,” although it’s not clear how this is manifested. Moreover, it seems unlikely that Russia is anywhere as far along as the various U.S. Air Force projects exploring developments in AI and autonomous flight, including “digital co-pilots.”

The projected timeline for the LTS includes the first flight of a technology demonstrator in 2023, followed by construction of pre-series prototypes in 2024-25, and delivery of initial production examples potentially as early as 2026-27.

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