Russia (and the former Soviet Union) has always been known for secrecy and opacity in the way it has shown new weapon systems. For example, before a new Soviet / Russian fighter was officially unveiled to the world, photographs of it were still difficult to obtain for the media and “aircraft spotters”, given the security at bases and the factories.
However, over the past week, the Russian arms industry has arguably embraced the technique of cellphone makers and auto makers to provide a glimpse of a new fighter. Last week, Russian arms industry conglomerate Rostec and its main aircraft manufacturing company, United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), announced that they would officially launch a new fighter, dubbed Checkmate, on July 20. .
The Checkmate aircraft is said to be launched on the opening day of the 2021 International Aviation and Space Salon (MAKS), Russia’s premier air show. A trailer of the new fighter sparked curiosity as the aircraft’s silhouette appeared to resemble the MiG-35, a fighter that had not won any foreign orders since its launch in 2007. The trailer also showed an Indian pilot in prominence, giving Rather to speculation the new project was intended as an export offer to the Indian Air Force and other customers.
Since then, aircraft spotters and Rostec herself have given a glimpse of the new aircraft, which is kept at Zhukovsky International Airport, where the MAKS is taking place. The images confirmed that Checkmate was not a facelift of the MiG-35.
The plane could be seen hidden under a black tarp, but enough detail could be measured.
Russian media said the new jet was built by Sukhoi’s office as part of a light tactical fighter construction program. Unlike the Russian Su-57 twin-engine stealth fighter, the new Checkmate fighter is smaller and has a single engine. The aircraft has two angled ailerons, a feature of American stealth aircraft such as the twin-engine F-22 and the single-engine F-35. In addition, images on social media showed that the plane may have air intakes for the engine under the front fuselage.
The fact that the Checkmate is a single-engine fighter has given rise to the theory that it is a counter-project to the US-led F-35 project. The F-35 is the largest defense procurement project in US history, with the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps expected to purchase more than 1,700 aircraft. The F-35 is also exported to most of the major allies of the United States: Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel, South Korea and Japan are among its buyers.
The connection with the F-35 was the subject of renewed interest on Saturday when Rostec shared an image of what appeared to be an infrared sensor. Rostec tweeted that “the black cases are very tempting, but the details are always more interesting” and used the hashtag Checkmate, reinforcing speculation that a similar system is on board the new jet.
The infrared sensor looked similar to the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) of the F-35.
Mounted under the fuselage of the F-35, the EOTS has forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and infrared search and tracking (IRST) functions. IRST is intended to detect airplanes, helicopters, and other targets in the air based on their heat signature, while FLIR is intended to detect targets on the surface, based on their heat signature. EOTS also has a laser targeting system to guide laser guided bombs.
Unlike radar, EOTS is a âpassiveâ sensor that does not alert an enemy when detected and is therefore an asset for stealth aircraft.
Russia has used IRST systems on its fighters for decades, but it is not yet clear how advanced the system presented by Rostec for the Checkmate fighter is.
Interestingly, the Rostec image of the infrared sensor showed a Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer as the target. Earlier this month, Russia claimed to have dropped bombs near HMS Defender, a Type 45 destroyer, passing off the coast of Crimea.