The Su-75 Checkmate, a fifth-generation stealthy fighter plane, is touted as being cheaper than the F-35 Lightning II. The Su-75 comes in at an estimated $30 million, while the F-35 can be had for around $80 million. The Russians believe that countries with mid-tier, but growing air forces, such as the United Arab Emirates, India, and Vietnam will want to purchase it. So, Russia has taken the Sukhoi Checkmate on a roadshow starting with the UAE’s Dubai air exhibit taking place this week. This is the first time the Su-75 has been outside of Russia.
But is the F-35 better for allies to purchase compared to the Su-75, which has no known customers?
What We Know About the Checkmate
The Su-75 looks bigger than what was expected. The stealth Checkmate is supposed to be a light tactical aircraft, but perhaps it could be seen as a medium-size airplane.
The Checkmate has a single engine with plenty of power. The Saturn AL-41 engine produces 24,000 pounds of thrust without afterburner and 39,000 pounds with afterburner – resulting in MACH 1.8 speed continuously. The engine can push out a range of at least 1,700 miles with a ceiling of 40,000 feet or higher. The engine could also be the fifth-generation Izdeliye 30, which has similar features.
Stealth characteristics include internal weapons bays, a hybrid wing body, a V-shaped tail, and an improved jet engine air intake with lighter mechanical systems.
The airplane can carry 7-tons of weapons with a large range of guided and unguided munitions including air-to-air, air-to-ground, and anti-ship missiles. It can reportedly engage and destroy six targets at once. For close-range threats, it has a 30mm cannon.
Who Will Order the Su-75?
The first flight is planned for 2023 and full production is slated to start in 2026.
Despite an Emirati delegation of VIPs inspecting the airplane at the Dubai Air Show, there are no orders so far. And the Russians have struggled to make just 12 of their other fifth-generation fighter – the Su-57. So, production estimates for the Checkmate may be optimistic.
However, if the Su-75 is successfully sold and delivered, there could be an unmanned version.
The F-35 Is Popular with U.S. Allies
An advantage of the F-35 over the Su-75 is pilot training. The United States has plans for a pilot training center and the Air Force is currently looking at five different sites for the facility. This could be a selling point for the F-35 as U.S. allies would not be enamored with traveling to Russia for pilot training if Moscow did offer that option.
An estimated 400 to 500 F-35s have been delivered to allies. Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, and the United Kingdom are official partners. Israel, Japan and South Korea have also placed orders. Belgium is a new buyer. Israel has used their own avionics, software, and weapons systems on the F-35.
The Russians may not have the same level of weapons diplomacy abilities that the United States has. The Su-75 still has to be assembled in numbers to match the proliferation of the F-35 and this could be a challenge for the Russians. If the Su-75 will indeed be cheaper at $30 million per plane, they may get some fence-sitters who would normally go with the F-35 to choose the Checkmate.