Su-75 Checkmate death knell as Russian fighter jet development set for further delays due to war in Ukraine?

Russia’s war in Ukraine appears to have severely hampered its aerospace industry, particularly its ambitious fifth-generation single-engine Su-75 Checkmate.

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Experts have now pointed out that Western sanctions have severely limited Russia’s ability to source and manufacture the components needed to build the “fifth generation” aircraft.

Russia has shown great confidence in the future of the Su-75 and said that the first test flight of the aircraft could materialize in 2024. However, the Checkmate did not exceed models and computer generated graphics.

The current conflict in Ukraine could last until 2023. Many Western experts have noted that it could be difficult for the Russian aerospace sector to move the project forward smoothly.

When the Checkmate was first shown at the MAKS 2021 international airshow, it was touted as a way for the domestic fighter jet industry to carve out a niche in the export market.

The plane’s name comes from the term “Checkmate”, which alludes to the chess move that ends the game by trapping the king.

An artist’s digital representation of the Sukhoi Checkmate., TASS

The Russian aerospace industry wants to undermine sales of competing planes developed by other countries, including Sweden’s JAS-39E/F Gripen and Lockheed Martin F-35, by offering a cheaper Russian-made alternative.

In terms of performance, the aircraft would carry 7.4 tons of payload at a maximum speed of Mach 1.8 and a combat range of 1,700 kilometers without using additional fuel tanks. It was also reported that the new aircraft could maneuver at 8g.

The fifth-generation Su-75 aircraft has an internal weapons bay that stores missiles, like other stealth jets. The aircraft will be equipped with the same air-launched weapons used by the Su-35 and Su-57, according to MAKS 2021 information plates.

Additionally, the design team claimed that the aircraft had high lift efficiency. The V-shaped vertical tail, which contributes to the aircraft’s reduced RCS, also received special mention.

Impact of Western sanctions

The invasion of Ukraine prompted the United States and its allies to impose heavy sanctions on Russia. For this reason, it became conceivable that Moscow could not produce or obtain the essential components of the program.

Maya Carlin, a defense analyst, said in her article that Russia’s ability to obtain essential items, such as precision machining machinery and semiconductors, has been hampered. These elements are necessary for the proper functioning of the advanced avionics system.

According to Carlin, this will impact future sales and manufacturing of an airworthy Su-75, which is currently expected to fly in 2024. If Russia struggles to provide parts and maintenance, it could deter potential buyers.

Examination of the wreckage of Russian missiles, drones and even tanks that were shot down in Ukraine has shown that they contain Western subsystems that are no longer allowed to be supplied to Russia.

Even in the past, US sanctions had a significant influence on the Russian defense industry. CAATSA (Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), passed before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, significantly discouraged different countries from procuring Russian weapons.

su-57-su-75
File Image: Su-57-& Su-75 (Checkmate)

Many countries have already ended their plans to buy Russian weapons to avoid US sanctions. Egypt, Algeria and Indonesia are notable cases of canceled purchases of the Su-35 fighter jet.

Checkmate’s development schedule has already been impacted by the sanctions Russia is currently facing. Sergey Chemezov, the head of Rostec, had informed Russian President Vladimir Putin during a May 18 meeting that the advanced Su-75 Checkmate fighter would begin production in 2027 rather than 2025, as had been planned.

In addition to concerns about the potential for manufacturing and exporting Russian weapons, there is also a major question about the performance of Russian aircraft in Ukraine. Despite having a clear advantage over the Ukrainian Air Force, Moscow was unable to achieve any air dominance in Ukraine.

The loss of advanced aircraft like the Su-35 in Ukraine could make governments hesitant to invest in brand new planes like Checkmate.

Prospects for collaboration with other countries?

Russia’s most advanced fighter, the Su-57, has only one customer, the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS), and was produced only in small numbers and at a significantly higher price. higher than expected.

Additionally, India’s decision to suspend funding for the program has also hampered the development process of the Su-57 aircraft. To prevent such a situation from happening again, Russia approached the United Arab Emirates in 2017 with a proposal to collaborate on the development of the Su-75.

During the Dubai Airshow in November 2017, a contract outlining the cost sharing of the program between the two countries was to be signed. However, the UAE’s plans to fund the program were reportedly scrapped due to US pressure.

However, a promotional video shows that Russia is still confident about exporting the jet to the Gulf state. The video begins with a pilot in the United Arab Emirates gathering his flight gear after receiving a jamming notice on his smartphone.

Pilots from three countries that the Russians see as their most immediate customers – India, Vietnam and Argentina – would also be shown in the video. Some experts believe these countries would consider buying the Checkmate, which costs around $25-30 million each.

Experts say governments within Russia’s sphere of influence could still buy Russian weapons, regardless of sanctions. But if development of the Su-75 is delayed, foreign customers could go elsewhere for their needs, dealing a major financial blow to Moscow.

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