The hottest defence news of the past week has been the unveiling of Russia’s new single-engine fighter jet, the Sukhoi-75 Checkmate. I haven’t commented on it yet, simply because there was a lot of hype surrounding it and it only seems to have died down recently. But everything that we are seeing about this new aircraft, indicates that the Russians are definitively back in the game of producing world-beating fighter jets, both for their own air force, and for their export customers:
Russia has unveiled the Sukhoi Checkmate, a new fifth-generation fighter jet intended to supplement the Su-57 and conquer the international market.
A mockup of the aircraft was presented in a grand ceremony on the opening day of the MAKS airshow in Moscow on July 20, 2021.
“We have been working on the project for just slightly longer than one year. Such a fast development cycle was possible only with the help of advanced computer technologies and virtual testing,” Yuri Slyusar, CEO of United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), said at the event.
According to the manufacturer, the aircraft is already prepared for testing, which may mean that a prototype is either manufactured or is going to be prepared in the near future. No further information regarding the deadlines was revealed, although Russian media reports that there are plans to perform the maiden flight by 2023 and start deliveries in 2026. The aircraft has also not been purchased by the Russian military, which explains the lack of a model number. Slyusar explained that the development was an initiative of Rostec, using company’s own finances.
The Checkmate is going to be a fifth-generation single-engine supersonic fighter jet with stealth features, internal weapon bays, and short take-off capability. According to Rostec, maximum speed of the aircraft is Mach 1.8, the range is 2,800 kilometers (1,740 miles), and the payload capacity is 7,400 kilograms (16,300 pounds).
The manufacturer also claims that the jet is equipped with an advanced artificial intelligence system which acts as a “copilot”, as well as features high modularity and thus can be easily developed into different versions, such as twin-seat and unmanned, depending on the requirements of a client.
Now, I don’t know yet how much of that is marketing hype and how much is real, but, given that this is Russia we’re talking about, and given that this jet was developed by Sukhoi – the same company that has given the world the awesome Su-27, Su-35, and especially the Su-57 – I would be willing to wager that this new aircraft can indeed do what they say.
And if that is the case, then the F-35’s future just became very bleak indeed.
The F-35 is nothing short of a flying shitheap, a gigantic waste of time, money, and effort. The Joint Strike Fighter programme that created this misbegotten mess kicked off in 1994 as part of a multi-service effort to replace excellent, but ageing, fighter and attack aircraft. The very first actual F-35, of any variant, did not take off until 2006 – 12 years later. And here we are, another 15 years after the very first flight, seeing the F-35 racking up truly eye-watering costs in the TRILLIONS of dollars.
By the way, the US Air Force has already all but admitted that the F-35 is a gigantic failure, and is looking to replace it with something cheaper and simpler. (Which, of course, won’t work, because the airheads are STILL all-in on the idiotic idea of a fighter that can do everything.)
The F-35’s litany of problems is so severe, and so unbelievably stupid, that you have to see some of them to understand how bad things are with the Joint Strike Flying Piano. Apparently, roughly 15 percent of the entire supposedly “operational” Turducken Plane fleet has NO ENGINE available, and only 4% of the engines delivered for the programme actually arrived in time. And that’s before we get to the fact that the F-35 fleet is rapidly approaching a servicing point due to operational usage that will require engines to be replaced.
On top of that – and this one really has to be seen to be believed – the Turducken Plane’s B variant, specifically created for Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children (God bless ’em!!!) to function as a close-support aircraft for the Marines, has a serious problem with its externally-mounted gun pod.
The incident took place during a nighttime close air support mission at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona, according to Military.com. A 25-millimeter PGU-32/U Semi-Armor Piercing High Explosive Incendiary-Tracer (SAPHEI-T) cannon round exploded shortly after leaving the F-35B’s GAU-22 four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun.
The GAU-22 is capable of being used in dogfights against other aircraft and ground targets. It has a rate of fire of 3,000 rounds per minute. The GAU-22 gun pod carries 220 rounds of ammunition, enough for just a few seconds of firing.
The Marine Corps’ F-35B carries the GAU-22 differently differently than the Air Force’s -A version. Unlike the -A aircraft, which mounts the GAU-22 inside the aircraft at the base of the left side wing root, the -B mounts the gun in a separate gun pod mounted to the airplane’s belly.
Apparently the jet involved will require repairs that will cost millions. Fortunately, and thank God for this, the pilot is fine.
My Yankee friends, those are your tax dollars at work. How do you feel now about your beloved “democracy”?
(There’s an old saying out there somewhere about how people get the government they deserve. If so, y’all did something truly TERRIBLE in your past history, because you’re gettin’ it, good and HARD, up the backside. Y’all are paying over $1.7 TRILLION for a set of warplanes that can’t climb, can’t turn, can’t run, can’t shoot, can’t fly, and break the necks of pilots under a certain weight level if they eject.)
I mean… just… Jesus H. Christ on a bicycle playing a freakin’ trumpet in front of a Dixieland band…
Anyway – the reason why I bring up the F-35’s endless and hopeless list of problems, again, is because the Russians have once more comprehensively out-cycled Lockheed and the US military.
The Su-75 is so named precisely because it is meant to serve as a cheap, flexible, fast, simple counterpart to the much more advanced, powerful, and fast Su-57, which is Russia’s answer to the (actually SUPERB but very hard to upgrade and modernise, and eye-wateringly expensive) F-22. That is in fact why they gave Checkmate the designation “75” – because they want to show the very clear link to the Su-57 by reversing its numerical designation for the new jet, and they want to emphasise that their new fighter will work hand-in-glove with its more powerful and capable big brother. The Russians have evidently designed the Checkmate to be an open, adaptable platform that can conform to a wide variety of requirements, but – critically – they have designed the plane according to very sensible principles.
Here is another view of the Checkmate:
Now compare this with a similar view of the F-35:
Do you notice anything about the difference in designs?
Let’s start with the wings. The F-35 has short, stubby wings and a big fat chunky body – thanks entirely to the fact that the Marines, God bless ’em, demanded V/STOL capability for their F-35B model in order to replace their Harriers. And the reason why they demanded that is because the Marines have an obsession with vertical take-off capability. This is because they have to make do with dinky little amphibious assault carriers that have short decks.
And the reason behind THAT is because the US Navy considers the USMC to be its bastard red-headed stepchild and treats the Marines like crap. (Don’t try to deny it, swabbies, we all know that’s exactly how you think of them.)
The result of all of these incredibly dumb design compromises is that the F-35 has a very high wing load – that is to say, each square foot (or metre, for those of us who use CORRECT AND PROPER units) has to carry a lot of weight due to the thick fat heavy body. And that makes the F-35 about as manoeuvreable as a brick – which it would be, were it not for its use of a Biblically powerful engine that generates something like 43,000 lb/f (190kN) of thrust at maximum performance.
Essentially, the F-35 is the proof of the theorem that even a brick will fly if given enough thrust.
Now look at the wing design of the Checkmate. It has large wings that blend nicely into the fuselage, similar to its big brother, the Su-57. In other words, this is a fighter designed first for flying and air superiority and high-speed manoeuvreability, and second for everything else.
Simply put, the Checkmate is a fighter designed to FIGHT.
Now look at the canopy. The Checkmate has more of a traditional bubble canopy, while the Lightning II… doesn’t. Why? Because the people who designed the Turducken Plane essentially thought that the F-35 would engage everything in the “Beyond Visual Range” spectrum of combat, i.e. the F-35 would just shoot everything down with missiles and get away scot-free simply by virtue of its supercruise abilities and extended range.
That theory is likely to bear up under actual combat between powers with real 5G jets about as well as a lead balloon.
The reality is that the F-35’s “stealth” isn’t that good, and the Navy version of the jet has serious problems with supersonic cruise due to the stresses creating cracks in the fuselage. So the two things that are supposed to guarantee the F-35’s survivability in actual combat, JUST DON’T WORK.
What about the Checkmate?
That fighter appears to follow the principles of good design for combat aircraft – big wing, lots of visibility, simple design, no nonsense, no frills.
Actually, I suspect that the designers actually took some inspiration from the butt-ugly Boeing X-32B prototype that failed to win the JSF competition:
That thing really is a moose, isn’t it…
Whatever the case, the Su-75 is turning a lot of heads and is underscoring the hard reality that the Russians know a few things about fighter design and production:
Checkmate is already being hailed across the Global South as the new epitome of lethal beauty – like the aerial equivalent of a pair of Louboutin pumps. It will probably be known by the less sexy denomination Su-75: after all, Checkmate belongs to the Sukhoi family.
The CEO of Rostec’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), Yuri Slyusar, says that production of Checkmate will start in 2026, after a series of complex tests.
Here is Rostec’s full presentation (in Russian), where we learn that Checkmate “can carry up to five air-to-air missiles of various ranges in its top version,” including the entire spectrum of 5G missiles.
Checkmate, according to chief designer Mikhail Strelets, essentially has a single engine with a deflected thrust vector; goes supersonic for a long time; and has a shortened take-off and landing compared with the Su-57. The West will be uncomfortable when it comes to further comparisons between Checkmate’s efficiency and that of the not exactly brilliant F-35.
Some of Checkmate’s most important features, according to UAC, include: flying at high altitude in all kinds of weather; modularity; simplified maintenance and operations; post-sale support; “good transportation capability” (range and endurance); “AI support for combat missions”; “low flight hour cost and large payload”; and, most important of all for international clients, good value for money.
Oh yes: there will be an unmanned “variant.” UAC is already working on it.
Now, none of this means that the Russians will actually be able to DELIVER 100% of all of their promises. The Su-57, for instance, still cannot do everything that its original designers claimed. And that is primarily because the Russians have struggled to produce enough engines with the kind of power that the Su-57 needs to do its primary job – which is to fly circles around its competitors, the F-22, the Eurofighter, and whatever secondhand rip-off that the ChiComs come up with.
(That’s the Chinese Chengdu J-20, which I have repeatedly disparaged in the past as a plane that looks like some Chinese spy described an F-22 down the phone, on a very bad connection, in English, which the poor bastard on the other end of the line translated literally into a Chinese blueprint. That doesn’t mean that it won’t be effective in a fight. We just don’t know. It’s just unlikely, given that the ChiComs aren’t actually very good at creating useful military technology – they’re only good at ripping off far superior rivals.)
Will the Russians actually be able to out-F-35 the F-35? That’s a very good question. The Checkmate provides a potential answer, and it appears to be a resounding “yes”.
I mean, in order for the Russians to beat the F-35 at its own game, all they have to do is:
- Produce a plane that can actually fly without needing over 40hrs of maintenance for every hour of flight time;
- Manoeuvre without getting its arse kicked by 40-year-old 4th-gen designs in testing;
- Carry more than 4 seconds’ worth of Gatling gun ammo;
- Go into supercruise without shedding its stealth coating like old feathers and cracking the fuselage and tail;
- Not shoot itself with ASSPLODING shells the moment it fires its gun;
- Not melt the steel on the decks of carriers when doing short takeoffs;
Basically the Russkies need to produce a reasonably cheap fighter that actually does what it says and doesn’t try to kill its pilots and doesn’t have a list of over EIGHT HUNDRED problems with the jet that range from major to outright show-stoppers.
Doesn’t sound too hard, does it?
Actually, it is so “not too hard” for Sukhoi, that their even more legendary rivals, the Mikoyan i Gurevich company, have proposed a new carrier-based fighter design and some really cool new stuff that actually could compete effectively in the international market:
That first design looks like a direct rip-off of the truly great F-16 Fighting Falcon (or Viper, as I prefer to call it). The second looks like a copy of the Chengdu J-20, which is ironic, to say the least, given that the ChiComs are known for ripping off Russian designs (badly).
But sitting and mocking the designs does not change the fact that the Russians are rapidly developing effective counters to badly bloated, stupidly designed, idiotically overpriced Western counterparts. And that is because the Russians aren’t idiots, at least when it comes to fighter aircraft design. And if America’s current crop of failed military leaders had even a modicum of respect for the Russian people and civilisation, they might realise that the West is now very much on the back foot when it comes to developing effective weapons of war against their enemies.
Russia, incidentally, is NOT an enemy. Or, at least, it doesn’t have to be. The Russian people and leadership simply want to be left alone to pursue their own ends in peace, and want little or nothing to do with foreign interventions. That is why Moscow has studiously avoided getting embroiled in foreign conflicts unless specifically ASKED. And that is why Russia’s armaments industry has sought to expand its revenues elsewhere, by building cost-effective, efficient, capable fighters for other markets.
As for the new MiG designs – well, I dunno about you, but I wouldn’t bet against the company that designed the Fishbed, the Flogger, the Foxbat and Foxhound, and especially the Fulcrum. This is a company that knows fighter jets. And it knows how to design one that IS NOT a giant flying money pit that shits (and shoots) itself every time it has to go up in the air.
America’s days as the premier air power in the world are not over, not yet. But they ARE waning, definitively and rapidly. And America’s military has no one to blame but itself. That’s what happens when you blow TRILLIONS on flying pianos made out of turducken meat that try to do everything, and therefore can do nothing.