Cheap and stealth fighter aren’t words that ever go together in a sentence. However, since this time last year, Russia has been trying to promote its new Su-75 fighter as a cheap take on stealth. But for Putin, it looks like his war in Ukraine could make the project unworkable. We asked a real expert to detail what it all means and what the future holds for the Su-75: Unveiled at the annual MAKS airshow last summer – and closely inspected by Vladimir Putin himself – the Sukhoi Su-75 “Checkmate” is a single-engine, single-seat multirole fighter designed for Russian export markets. It is estimated to carry up to seven tons of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions and has the same advanced avionics suite as its cousin, the Sukhoi Su-57 “Felon”.
The fighter is designed as a (much) cheaper alternative to the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning. Indeed, its starting price is estimated to be around $30 million before customer-specific modifications put it well below the $78 million price of the F-35, as well as the $125 million of the F- 22. These price categories place it in much closer competition with the Dassault Rafale and JAS-39 Gripen.
The Su-75 may never fly
Still, it’s not even clear that the Checkmate will really take off anytime soon. Rostec, Sukhoi’s parent company, said it expects a maiden flight in 2023 with production starting in 2027 (two years later than originally planned). Yet, like so many advanced pieces of equipment within the Russian defense industry, such as the T-14 Armata tank and the Su-57, it is unclear whether such dates should be believed at all.
The Checkmate is designed to fly on the Saturn Izdeliye-30 engine, but even the Su-57, Russia’s first fifth-generation fighter, is not yet fully equipped with the Saturn. International sanctions, both after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, have severely limited the country’s ability to access the resources needed to produce fifth-generation fighters. . This is especially true of export bans on semiconductors, key components of advanced computers used in today’s fifth-generation aircraft.
Su-75 export market issues
On top of that, it is not clear that the target markets for Su-75 export – Vietnam, UAE, India, Argentina and some African countries – are truly viable. The Su-75 is intended to compete with the F-22 and F-35, but neither country is about to need such a capability. Additionally, as inexpensive unmanned aerial vehicles like the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone continue to make their mark, countries with tighter defense budgets will likely turn to this option more frequently.
The situation of the Checkmate is Even further complicated in that its rapid development and production depended primarily on investments in the Su-57 used to restart production of Checkmate. Yet with the Su-57 facing many of the same constraints as the Su-75, the Su-75 will almost certainly be set back even further than currently expected.
Sanctions could hurt Su-75 sales
Finally, another effect of international sanctions affecting Russian defense exports is that Russia is no longer able to trade in US dollars, making the international transfer of Su-75s more complicated than it would otherwise be. .
In short, the predicted failures of the Su-75 are not only due to a lack of demand, but also the success of the sanctions imposed against the Russian regime since 2014. Although many have decried the failure of the sanctions to “work”, look no more than how the financial and economic power of the United States has hampered the development of Russia’s most advanced military equipment. The Su-75 is just one more example of this Russian failure and the success of the United States and its Western allies.
Alex Betley is a recent graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy where he was a Civil Resistance Researcher in International Security Studies and Editor of the Fletcher Security Review.