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UAE Shows Interest in Russia’s ‘Checkmate’ Fighter

The chief of Russian defense corporation Rostec revealed that the UAE has shown interest in its fifth-generation Su-75 Checkmate fighter developed by Sukhoi.

The development is significant because the Gulf state’s $23 billion agreement to purchase US weapons, which includes 50 F-35 aircraft, hinges on the country’s involvement in the Yemen conflict and the deal’s potential impact on Israel. The Biden administration has reportedly added another condition — the termination of a 5G contract with Chinese technology firm Huawei.

Speaking at the Dubai Airshow 2021, Rostec head Sergei Chemezov was quoted by TASS as saying that the UAE has “displayed its interest in it [the aircraft] and wants to examine the aircraft more closely and discuss it.” It was the first time the aircraft was displayed outside Russia, where it was unveiled in July.

Negotiations With Potential Buyers

Chemezov added that the state-backed arms seller Rosoboronexport (part of Rostec) has held “a series” of negotiations with potential buyers from abroad concerning the aircraft  and that “configuration offers for them are being formulated.”

He expressed confidence that the Checkmate, the prototype of which was displayed at the airshow, will generate interest in additional countries, touting that the aircraft’s “open configuration” will allow users to integrate weapons of their choice, providing the aircraft an advantage over its international counterparts.

“Besides, we outfit it with various electronics, electronic warfare systems, target acquisition capabilities and so on,” he added, suggesting that the aircraft’s price range will hover between $30 to 35 million per unit.

Meanwhile, the director-general of Rosoboronexport said at the airshow that the manufacturer will start the aircraft’s serial production before accepting its purchase and pre-contract orders. Serial production is scheduled to begin in 2026, UAC CEO Yuri Slyusar revealed in July, adding that the plane’s maiden flight will take place in 2023.

Checkmate’s Features

The single-engine aircraft, which has been designed leveraging the technical gains of the Su-57 aircraft development process, will have “elements of artificial intelligence” in addition to being outfitted with an inboard compartment for airborne air-to-air and air-to-surface armaments. 

The aircraft will reportedly fly up to Mach 1.8 (1.8 times the speed of sound) with an operating range of 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles). Its payload capacity will be over 7 tons and with a capacity to strike up to six targets at a time. An auto-piloted version of the Checkmate is also being developed.

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