Russia’s new prototype fifth-generation fighter jet, project name “Checkmate” unveiled in the recently held MAKS-2021 may prove as hurdle in the market performance of the Chinese stealth fighter jet, the FC-31, on the international arms market.
Russian firm Sukhoi developed the new fighter under the LTS program, a Russian acronym for the Light Tactical Aircraft. The jet is expected to stand as a direct competition to the China's FC-31.
"The Checkmate will be a direct competitor to China's medium-sized stealth fighter jet, the FC-31, on the international arms market," Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
"China's product has already made test flights, and is a step ahead of the Checkmate in terms of development progress," Wei said.
This brand new Russian fighter is equipped with a single-engine top speed of Mach 1.8 to 2, a range of 3,000 km and a payload of 7,400 kg. The prototype is set to make its maiden flight in 2023 and deliveries could start in 2026.
On the other hand, the Shenyang FC-31 twin-engine, mid-size fifth-generation jet has a maximum take-off weight of 28,000 kg and a total thrust of 24tons. In 2020, the maximum range was extended to 1250km. The aircraft is also has the ability to cruise at supersonic speed.
Its price is lucrative too. The jet comes with a price tag of $25-30 million. The Shenyang FC-31 on the other hand costs around $70 million apiece.
The new design could be converted to an unpiloted version and a two-seat model, as per various reports.
Industries and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said that the prospective fighter was being developed to compete with the U.S. F-35 Lightning II fighter that entered service in 2015, a new Chinese fighter, and other designs.
Dubbed a light tactical aircraft, the Checkmate is designed to be smaller and cheaper than Russia's Su-57 two-engine stealth fighter jet. It is also stealthier in comparison with the Su-57.
"Judging from the aerodynamic design, the Checkmate seems to have a superior stealth capability to the Su-57, allowing it to better avoid radar detection," the Chinese expert added.