Is the Russian Su-75 Checkmate stealth fighter doomed?
Su-75 fighter could be Russia just flexing the PR hype – The name is a play on Russia’s love of chess and its defense company inexplicably offers its own scent at air shows to stoke enthusiasm for overseas sales. Alas, the Su-75 Checkmate looks more like a marketing and PR effort than a 5th generation stealth fighter-bomber. International customers are required to pay for the program, and Russian design bureau Sukhoi pulls out all the stops.
Russia bets on international sales of Su-75
Rostec, the entity that oversees the Sukhoi Design Bureau, even enlisted government officials to tout the virtues of the Su-75 at the Dubai Air Show in December. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov believes that the military in Africa, Vietnam and India are interested in acquiring the aircraft.
The Russian military mark is tarnished
But on this day of sanctions against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, foreign customers may balk, leaving the Su-75 to flounder on its own. Indeed, its predecessor, the Su-57 Felon, is still not fully combat-ready, despite at least two deployments to Syria, where it would have flown only in the background in a non-combat role. The stealth twin-engine Su-57 could take until 2027 for mass production.
The Su-75 Checkmate has its advantages
The Checkmate, on the other hand, has some enviable features, according to the Russians. It can fly at MACH 1.8 with a range of 1,700 miles and a ceiling of 40,000 feet. It has a winged body with a V-shaped tail. Seven tons of ammunition can hold an impressive load of missiles and bombs. However, it might not even fly until 2023.
Lead an unmanned and manned combat team
It can be integrated with Russian drones such as the S-70 “Okhotnik” (“Hunter”), in a faithful wingman configuration. This would mean the Checkmate could act as a “quarterback” to merge a combat force of manned and unmanned fighter jets for a bigger punch in combat.
Are the new fighter-bombers even necessary for small armies?
The Checkmate may not sell the way the Russians want it to.
RAND Corporation researchers believe the successful performance of attack drones over Ukraine, such as the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2, has boosted the global fighter-bomber market. Why not buy cheaper combat drones instead of expensive next-gen fighters that require frequent and expensive flight hours, hard-to-acquire spare parts, and complicated maintenance.
“The nature of warfare is changing and armed drones cost a fraction of the price of manned aircraft. Countries with limited defense budgets can ditch Russia’s so-called 5th-generation fighter jet, no matter what specs it’s supposed to have,” RAND’s John V. Parachini and Peter A. Wilson wrote in Defense One.
Russia’s arms industry takes a hit
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made Moscow a pariah within the international community. Countries are fleeing Russia and throwing themselves into the arms of China, while [1945[1945 noted, or seek other suppliers for new aircraft and defense equipment. It’s a ripple effect that Putin and his war-planning cronies overlooked. Add to that financial sanctions, and the Russian arms industry and planes for foreign sales like the Checkmate could see their orders dwindle, no matter how big the marketing and public relations. There may not be enough rubles to keep the Su-75 program afloat.
Now as 1945 Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. EastwoodPhD, is the author of Humans, Machines and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an emerging threat expert and former US Army infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.