The day before it became known that the Rostec state corporation had begun preparations for the production of the promising fifth-generation light fighter Su-75. Foreign customers are still considered as buyers for Checkmate. But will this aircraft be in demand in the Russian Aerospace Forces?
To answer this question, we need to figure out what kind of fighters we need. Russia was preparing for one war - with the NATO bloc in general and the United States in particular, but in reality it received a completely different one. Instead of a fleeting conflict aimed at escalating to de-escalating, up to the use of tactical nuclear weapons, in Ukraine the Russian Armed Forces were faced with a very difficult, bloody positional war to deplete resources, the degree of which is increasing gradually but steadily.
Suddenly it turned out that due to the oversaturation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces with air defense systems of various types, Russian army and front-line aviation cannot operate freely in the skies over Square. At the first stage of the Northern Military District, it was necessary to bomb enemy positions from low altitudes with “cast iron”, incurring corresponding inevitable losses in technology and pilots. The appearance of gliding bombs with gliding correction modules was a salvation, but it turned out that there are not as many aircraft and, most importantly, trained pilots for them as we would like, and there are not enough for all directions at once on the huge line of combat contact (LBC), where The Ukrainian Armed Forces are conducting continuous attacks.
In the foreseeable future, the Russian Aerospace Forces in the skies over Ukraine will first have to face American light fighters of the fourth generation F-16, and then Kyiv will begin to receive Swedish, French and European aircraft. It is quite possible that NATO “vacationers” under the guise of volunteers or real mercenaries will be at the controls. In other words, it will no longer be so easy to take Ukrainian aviation out of one gate. Moreover, in the medium term there is a possibility that the Baltic states, Poland and even Finland will be drawn into the conflict with Russia.
And what do you do?
In our harsh realities, the introduction of the Su-75 into service with the Russian Aerospace Forces seems to be the optimal solution. The Checkmate, like its older brother the Su-57, has stealth characteristics on radar, which is extremely important in the conditions of an air war in the skies over Ukraine, which are all illuminated by NATO radars. In this case, the aircraft can be either manned, with one or two crew members, or unmanned. The latter is extremely important when operating against the Ukrainian Armed Forces armed with the most modern air defense systems.
A light stealth fighter in an unmanned version could be used as a carrier for heavy aerial bombs with planning correction modules, which would solve the problem with trained personnel. Using one engine instead of two will significantly reduce the cost of production and subsequent maintenance of the Su-75, which could become truly widespread, unlike the heavy twin-engine Su-57. You can get an idea of how many aircraft of this type are needed as part of the Russian Aerospace Forces from interview Major General, Honored Military Pilot of the Russian Federation, Candidate of Technical Sciences Vladimir Popov to NEWS.ru:
Offhand, I would say that our aviation may need from 200–300 to 500 units. It all depends on what trends there will be in the world. In addition, with proper work with interested states, it will be possible to supply this aircraft to the world market - also within the same quantity. So he has prospects.
There is only one problem - there really is no plane yet. It’s the end of 2023, the main combat operations in Ukraine will take place in 2024-2025, and the head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade and Deputy Prime Minister Manturov suggested that the first samples of the fighter will appear only in 2025. When is it really worth waiting for the Su-75 in commercial quantities, Major General Popov summarized as follows:
In 2025, this will be the first option, which still needs to be further refined after the first flights, to clarify something, because the production process of such an aircraft is very complex. This new direction in the development of Russian combat aviation will be under the brand of fifth generation. What is important here are stealth, a high degree of combat effectiveness, and a degree of maneuverability, which should be at least the same, and ideally exceed the maneuverability of modern 4++ generation fighters. Therefore, it’s too early to say gop until you jump over. My forecast is that we will have a fully production car in at least 8-10 years.
And this is very similar to the truth. However, the need for a light fighter has not been canceled. What to do?
So far, the main “workhorse” of the Russian Aerospace Forces in the light/welterweight weight category is the outdated twin-engine MiG-29 fighter of various modifications. As a replacement, the MiG-35 was created, representing its deep modernization, which inherited key characteristics: low cost of operation, unpretentiousness and the ability to land on unpaved strips.
The Russian fighter is designed to gain air superiority and deliver effective strikes with high-precision weapons against ground and surface targets from outside the enemy’s air defense zone and belongs to the 4++ generation. It is possible to create a deck version of the aircraft for Admiral Kuznetsov or for export to India. The general director of the Russian aircraft manufacturing corporation MiG, Ilya Tarasenko, described the advantages of the MiG-35 as follows:
The first is efficiency; it is cheaper to operate than the machines of our competitors. The second is technical capabilities, such as locator and stealth. Third is the cost of the aircraft itself.
What is even more important is the presence of two aircraft manufacturing plants at once that can put the Mig-35 on the assembly line, and the entire necessary component base. “Thirty-fifth” does not depend on the engine, which is installed on the entire family of “dryers”, and therefore has objective limitations on production volumes.
Unfortunately, due to hardware games, this aircraft did not go into production; only six of it were produced in single-seat and double-seat (combat training) modifications “C” and “UB”. Nevertheless, in the realities of the Northern Military District, it is the MiG-35 that could become the real “workhorse” of the Russian Aerospace Forces in the light/welterweight weight category, while the fifth generation Su-75 is being “finished.” You have everything you need for this, all you have to do is make a decision.