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The 15th International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS-2021 near Moscow saw the first public presentation of the CHECKMATE as the newest Russian Light Tactical Aircraft (LTS in Russian). The fighter was developed by Sukhoi, today a subsidiary of the United Aircraft Corporation (USC) with Rostec being the main shareholder. The single-engine fighter has been introduced as a fifth generation aircraft to primarily serve the export market.

Due to a digital design process, CHECKMATE could be developed in just four years. According to Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov, the aircraft was designed to implement stealth technology in combination with high flight performance characteristics. He stresed that the aircraft was equipped with advanced avionics and the most spacious internal weapons compartments of its class, thus providing the capability to carry up to five air-to-air missiles covering various ranges, in addition to other weapons in an inconspicuous configuration inside the airframe. The aircraft’s maximum combat load is claimed to be 7,400 kilograms and the flight range without additional fuel tanks is estimated to be 2,900 kilometres. Thanks to an open architecture the aircraft can be tailored to meet specific customer demands and, according to Rostec, provides significant growth potential.


Implementing a future-oriented conceopt with composite materials, glass cockpit and a thrust vectoring engine, the aitrcraft has been laid out for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. It employs an active phased array radar, which supports the engagement of targets even in conditions of strong interference.

At the same time, the onboard electronic suppression and self-defence system allows is to provide protection. Future system development options include an unmanned version of CHECKMATE to be used alongside conventional aircraft.

The CHECKMATE presentation to Russian President Vladimir Putin took place on 20 July, followed by many visits of the foreign delegations to make the CHECKMATE pavilion the busiest at MAKS-2021. According to company sources, CHECKMATE could become a MiG-21 successor. More than 14,000 of this single-engine fighter nicknamed FISHBED by NATO were produced in the USSR, Czechoslovakia, India and China.

Since the era of the Soviet Union, Russian defence technology has been developed for the home market. All systems were first introduced with the Russian armed forces, then, after several years in service, the systems received the so called ‘export image passport’, as a permit for international sales. Among the few exceptions is the PANTSIR SHORADS developed by the Shipunov KBP Design Bureau (nowadays the High Precision Weapons Holding subsidiary) under a US$760M contract with the United Arab Emirates. Today, systems of the PANTSIR family systems are also in use with the Russian Army and Navy in addition to other international customers.

Yury Laskin