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Dubai Airshow 2021: UAC makes gambits with Checkmate

15th November 2021 - 18:16 GMT | by Leonid Nersisyan in Dubai

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Checkmate prototype in its special hangar at the Dubai Airshow 2021. (Photo: Rostec)

United Aircraft Corporation displays the Checkmate light tactical aircraft at Dubai Airshow, with an interesting engine choice and manned-unmanned teaming on the horizon.

Prominent among the aircraft on static display at the Dubai Airshow 2021 is the Checkmate fifth-generation light tactical aircraft, on show for the first time outside Russia.

An entire hangar is dedicated to a prototype Checkmate with an interactive presentation similar to its debut in July 2021 during the MAKS-2021 exhibition.

Checkmate is a single-engine, fifth-generation light fighter that is being developed with a focus on exports (it is also earmarked for Russian service as the Su-75). The aircraft has a maximum payload of 7,400kg and its flight range without external fuel tanks is 2,900km. It can manoeuvre at up to 8G with a maximum speed of Mach 1.8.

United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) — parent company of Checkmate manufacturer Sukhoi — announced at the Dubai Airshow its intention to build an uncrewed version of the aircraft, which will be able to interact with a crewed Checkmate as part of a manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) concept. The uncrewed version was depicted in the latest marketing video of the aircraft.

After presenting the aircraft on 14 November, Yury Slyusar, CEO of UAC, said it is trying to accelerate initial deliveries of the aircraft to 2025 — not 2026 as was previously announced — although he did not explain why.

Mikhail Nikitushkin, Sukhoi aircraft designer, shared some new information on Checkmate. He mentioned that the Su-75 will be equipped with a modified version of the AL-41F1 engine that powers the Su-57. This is somewhat surprising, as many observers were inclined to believe that the aircraft will receive a new Izdelie 30 engine, which is planned to be installed on the Su-57 in the future.

Choosing a form of AL-41F1 engine would cut the development time for Checkmate but it would also limit the stealth performance of the fighter. This decision on the engine therefore demonstrates the desire for a quick launch of a high-quality but imperfect product at an affordable price: something that is highly important for the Russian military aircraft industry, as it lacks an affordable light single-engine aircraft.

Shephard in August 2021 reported interest from the UAE in Checkmate mainly because of a prior agreement with Russia to engage in developing a fifth-generation light fighter, but the Middle East country’s sizeable military spending power also adds to a wider feeling that a deal could be struck without complication.

Sergei Chemezov, CEO of Rostec (which incorporates UAC) would only say at the Dubai Airshow that a single unnamed potential customer is in technical discussions to buy Checkmate. He added that more information will come to light in 2023 after the first flight of the aircraft. Three prototype aircraft are planned to be built by that time. 

The planned initial delivery date was amended on 16 November

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