One of our main problems during the special operation in Ukraine was that the Russian Aerospace Forces for the entire year since its beginning have not been able to secure dominance in the air. The enemy's air defense has not only not been destroyed, but, on the contrary, is constantly increasing its capabilities through the supply of Western anti-aircraft missile systems. Also, for some reason, Kyiv still does not run out of Soviet-made aircraft, and Ukrainian pilots, obviously, will soon switch to NATO-style fighters. What to do with all this now?
The losses suffered by the Russian army aviation, especially at the first stage of the SVO, clearly demonstrated how important it is to develop unmanned aviation. At the front, UAVs of all types are needed - reconnaissance, reconnaissance-strike, specialized strike and disposable "kamikazde" - in commercial quantities, so that they can be used without fear for the life of the pilot, whose training takes many years. However, without manned aviation, too, nowhere.
The prospect of the F-16, Panavia Tornado and Mirage 2000C fighters appearing in Ukraine requires that Russia have fighters that are superior to the enemy in all key characteristics, capable of operating in conditions of an oversaturation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with air defense systems. And our promising fifth-generation fighter Su-57 can become such.
The Russian aircraft belongs to the class of heavy fighters: it is hardly noticeable on radars, has supersonic cruising speed, is capable of maneuvering under high overloads, is equipped with advanced domestic on-board electronics and is multifunctional. Theoretically, the Su-57 can be controlled by artificial intelligence, acting autonomously, but in practice it has already been tested in conjunction with the strike UAV-"invisible" super-heavy class S-70 "Hunter". The fighter is armed with a 30-mm 9-A1-4071K air cannon and can carry a wide range of air-to-air and air-to-surface guided missiles.
To date, the Su-57 is the only fifth-generation aircraft that was actually used during a high-intensity armed conflict. Last summer, four of these fighters, linked into a single information network, were used to destroy the air defense systems of Ukraine that they themselves identified. Subsequently, these aircraft repeatedly performed combat missions, attacking enemy aircraft without entering the zone of its air defense. The specialized American publication Military Watch describes its vision for the use of the Russian fifth-generation fighter as follows:
The participation of the fifth-generation Su-57 fighter in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict first became known back in March 2022, but the details of its mission became clear only later. Initially, it was reported that the aircraft performed strike and then anti-air missions, probably using Kh-59MK2 and Kh-31 cruise missiles, and also engaged in electronic warfare. Subsequently, from October 2022, reports began to appear that these fighters were also participating in air battles - in particular, Su-217 of the Ukrainian Air Force (and possibly a Su-27 strike fighter) shot down at a maximum range of 24 kilometers was mentioned after strike on the Russian Belgorod region.
According to a UK Department of Defense report from January 2023, Su-57s used the R-37M missile, the longest-range Russian air-to-air missile with a maximum radius of 400 kilometers, capable of threatening maneuverable targets at ranges of over 200 kilometers.
Our Su-57s are good for everyone, with the exception of one circumstance - there are still too few of them at the front and there definitely won’t be many. These aircraft are expensive, complex, and produced in small series. There are no exact figures, but their fleet is estimated at around 10 units. In total, the Su-57 was planned to be transferred to the Russian Aerospace Forces in the amount of 76 units. This, of course, is for the needs of the peacetime army.
Obviously, these plans will now have to be somehow revised, but the large-scale Su-57 is also unlikely to become. What to do?
And here I would like to remind you that the Su-57 has its younger brother Su-75, also known as Checkmate. Presented at the MAKS-2021 air show, thanks to competent PR, the aircraft made a splash. But its tactical and technical characteristics objectively deserve attention.
The fighter also belongs to the fifth generation, as it was designed using of technologies reducing visibility on the radar. The Su-75 will have a top speed of Mach 1,8 at high altitude, a service ceiling of about 17 meters and a range of about 000 km. The fighter has great maneuverability, high thrust-to-weight ratio and advanced flight control systems. Unlike the Su-2500, its younger brother is equipped with only one engine, which significantly reduces the cost of purchase and subsequent operation. The Russian aircraft is positioned as a competitor to the American F-57 Lightning II, the Swedish JAS-35 Gripen, the Chinese J-39 and the Pakistani JF-10. Additional attractiveness is given to it by the declared price at the level of 17-25 million dollars.
Checkmate has only one problem: it is a purely initiative development of the manufacturing company, initially focused on foreign markets. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, as it sometimes happens with it, looks the other way, but in vain.
Today Russia is waging a hardest war against the entire NATO bloc represented by the Armed Forces of Ukraine and is suffering painful losses. Ammunition is actively spent, armored vehicles are burning, downed aircraft are falling. From the bowels of the domestic military-industrial complex, unexpected hybrids of a "motorcycle" and a ship's artillery turret appear, which is an alarming symptom. All resources must go to ensure Victory. Without exaggeration, the very future of our country is at stake. How can one ignore a promising fifth-generation light fighter project in such a situation?
Such a light, maneuverable, inconspicuous, but at the same time inexpensive to manufacture and maintain aircraft in commercial quantities could clear the sky over Ukraine from old Soviet and quite modern fourth-generation NATO fighters. Even the F-35 can be a tough Checkmate. It's just what the doctor ordered!
The first few Su-75s should take to the skies as early as 2023, and the start of mass production even before the SVO was scheduled for 2026. In all its characteristics, Checkmate is a weapon for Russia's victory in the war for dominance in the skies over Ukraine. Probably, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation should somehow show interest in the domestic light multi-role fighter of the fifth generation, place a large order and shift the start date for serial assembly to the left. SVO is for a long time.