Today, Rostec President Sergey Chemezo, in a press briefing with Russian President Putin, confirmed the mass production start date for the Su-75 Checkmate to be 2027 and the Okhotnik “Hunter” Heavy Attack Drones to be 2023.
In 2021, Sukhoi unveiled the Checkmate at the MAKS-21 air show in Dubai. The 5th generation fighter bomber is being aggressively marketed to foreign buyers in order to generate orders which will fund the project. The Federation told press that the Checkmate has a significant unnamed anchor customer, but will export the aircraft to India, Vietnam, and a plethora of African nations. While it seems like the Checkmate is doing much better than it’s fifth-generation predecessor, the Su-57 Felon, it is still difficult to judge the ambition of the 2027 timeline, considering the Felon began development in 2002, but did not launch until around 2010. To this day only around 20 have been built. However, much of the design troubles experienced in the Felon have been optimized for the Checkmate. For example, the powerplant appears to be the Saturn izdeliye 30 engine which will also power the Sukhoi Su-57’s Su-57M variant, a major design hurdle in the Felon. Also, the cockpit layout is identical to the Su-57 with a glass cockpit with two 38 cm (15 in) main multi-functional LCD displays similar to the arrangement of the Su-35S. The cockpit has a wide-angle (30° by 22°) head-up display (HUD). Additionally, According to Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, the Checkmate will share the same components and avionics as the Su-57 as a cost-reduction mechanism by the Sukhoi Design Bureau. So with all this in mind, the full rate production timeline of 2027 may seem plausible for the Checkmate. The major differences from the Felon are the specialized intake, radar absorbent materials and design, and the internal weapons bay.
In the same press conference, the Rostech President announced full rate production for the S-70 UCAV would be ongoing by 2023. The Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik-B, , also referred to as Hunter-B, is a Russian stealth heavy unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) being developed by Sukhoi and Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG as a sixth-generation aircraft project. The drone is based on the earlier Mikoyan Skat, designed by MiG, and encompasses some technologies of the fifth-generation Felon. The Hunter will reportedly carry 2,000kg of munitions in external pylons and an internal weapons bay.
What is Sixth Generation?
The most significant differences between fourth and fifth-generation aircraft are data fusion, low observability (stealth), from initial design, and Advanced Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars. However sixth generation aircraft begin to blur the line between unmanned and manned with these characteristics:
- Optionally manned, with the same airframe capable of conducting piloted, remote controlled or onboard-AI controlled missions.
- Enhanced human-systems integration, with virtual cockpits presented via helmet-mounted displays which allows the pilot 360-degree vision with AI-enhanced battlefield awareness, and replaces conventional instrument panels.
- Potential use of directed-energy weapons such as a laser CIWS.
India, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Russia, South Korea, and Japan are the primary countries that have declared sixth-generation projects ongoing.