The Russian Su-75 “Checkmate” – just another case of “Vapor Marketing” or does it live up to the hype?

According to Aviation Week and Space Technology – a leading American magazine, the Russian Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate has made it to the list of top 10 achievements in military aviation in 2021. Reportedly, the Russian, single-engine, light tactical stealth aircraft, grabbed attention owing to its maiden flight as an “unmanned wingman” and the first aerial refuelling performed by an unmanned aerial vehicle.


Notorious for hyping their high-grade Russian military equipment in unconventional ways, officials from Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau offered bottles of a limited-edition Checkmate “perfume”, at the company’s unveiling of the aircraft at the Dubai Air Show in December 2021.

So, what really is the hype surrounding, what is touted to be Russia’s multi-purpose, stealth fighter-bomber, about?

Fact vs fiction

Priced at less than half of Saab Gripen ($85 million) and substantially cheaper than the US F-35 ($115 million) French Dassault Rafale ($115 million), the Su-75 Checkmate is projected as a low-cost alternative to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II and Shenyang FC-31 aircraft of the same light to medium-weight category.

F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) | Airforce Technology
The Chinese Shenyang FC-31 | Republic World

A static mock-up was unveiled at the 2021 MAKS Air Show with President of Russia-Vladimir Putin in attendance and the model is touted to be pitched to  Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia and any other countries that have been either excluded from or cannot afford the US F-35 programme.

Putin inspecting the new fighter jet at the air show | Creator: SPUTNIK | Credit: via REUTERS

Russia is one of the few countries with full-cycle capacities for the production of advanced aircraft systems. The new product developed by UAC specialists should arouse genuine interest not only in our country, but also in other regions of the world, including our competitors abroad

said a company spokesperson at the air show

Reportedly, the Obninsk Research and Production Enterprise “Technologiya”-part of Rosteс State Corporation, came up with a solution that it states- improves the characteristics of cockpit glazing by 20%, including reducing the radar visibility of military aircraft.

Representative |

Today, the samples produced with the upgraded equipment confirmed the pre-calculated characteristics during measurements and tests. The new technology will be used to create structural optics for advanced aviation systems. This will reduce the radar visibility of the aircraft and increase their combat capabilities

Vladimir Artyakov, First Deputy CEO of Rostec State Corporation

Why are countries shying away from considering the Su-75 Checkmate?

Russia has been struggling to manufacture jet engines following sanctions and export restrictions imposed ever since it annexed Crimea in 2014. The recent impositions sanctioned due to the Russian-Ukrainian aggression have only made it worse.


After its official debut at the end of last year, there are still many unanswered questions about the Checkmate:

  • Although touted to be a 5th-generation aircraft by the company, doubts are raised over its advanced avionics and effective stealth technology
  • Procurement of certain technologies critical for the mass production of its advanced combat sensors with microprocessor sub-systems has been trumped by western sanctions
  • The overall success of the “Checkmate” program is questionable given the demand for high-performance medium-weight fighter-bombers is plummeting
  • The single-seat, twin-engine multirole fighter Sukhoi Su-57 is, reportedly, the Russian Armed Force’s first stealth aircraft, although most western experts opine that it is the least ‘stealthy’ of its fighter generation

The nature of warfare tactics deployed around the world is constantly evolving, with armed drones and ground combat vehicles, costing just a fraction of what these “stealth crafts” cost. Furthermore, countries with a tight budget may naturally give “Checkmate” a pass, regardless of the features it so proudly “claims”.

Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicle destroyed Russian air defence systems and ground combat vehicles in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh with precision-guided missiles | Representative | Daily Sabah

Also to be noted is the fact that a close analysis of Russian media reveals releases made about the “Checkmate” don’t make a mention of “stealth technology” anywhere, and that raises serious doubts about the claims of the “5th generation stealth” aircraft.

According to reports, considering all said and done, it may finally be down to a case of “vapour marketing” and the model just might not actually live up to the hype.


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