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Intakes seem to go from 3 o'clock to 9 o'clock.

Also looks a lot larger than JF-17/Gripen/Tejas size. There's a photo with some trucks in the foreground and people standing in front of it. I would imagine the overall length to be at least J-10 sized. Engine looks like it might be Izd.30 or something at least of Al-31/41/ 117 class just from the rear aspect photos. Would make no sense making a mid thrust single engine 5th gen fighter since it wouldn't be able to carry enough payload to make it as worthwhile. So basically a single engined (5th gen engines) mid weight 5th gen fighter not too unlike F-35. Would sell like hotcakes if the price is right for countries looking to buy some token 5th gen units to boost the effectiveness of the rest of their fleets. Program would have been running for around a decade if they're ready to fly it/ have test flown it in more secrecy.


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Registered Member
Their material science - outside of metallurgy - has fallen pretty far behind the West, Japan, South Korea and China.

Russia developed the world's most advanced composite airliner wing - yes, more advanced than the Boeing 787, Airbus A350 and A220! And when the Western-supplied resins and fibers were sanctioned, it was able to substitute domestic replacements within 2 years. That is an astonishing performance, given the rocky economic situation.

I question the reliability of the engines. MTBF - historically - has not been good. China does a better job than average in preventive maintenance and their own designs appear to be more reliable.

Going by figures posted for late-model WS-10 variants posted on this forum a couple of years ago, the Izd.117S (Su-35S engine) had *double* the life and MTBO of its Chinese counterparts! Of course, the WS-10 numbers were unconfirmed while the 4000h/1500h for the Russian engine are official specifications, but speculation if anything tends to be on the optimistic side.



If you're looking at export markets, mid-thrust single engine 5th gens ARE viable, for the simple reason that most nations don't actually need large 5th gen payloads for strike. They need payloads, yes, but the F-35 is capable of "beast mode", a SLWF 5th gen should also be capable of beast mode and do most of its striking in a non-stealth configuration. The stealth payload is only there for the "knock-down the door" work as well as air-to-air.

Yes, a mid-thrust single engine 5th gen probably will not be competitive with a F-35 in terms of stealth strike payload for cost. However, it won't matter because you'll be stealthier to begin with and thus qualitatively superior in the A2A role, and for less money.


So, some basic facts:

16.6m (by my measurements) x ~10m. If 10m, then the radome is 880mm, implying an AESA of 660mm (F-16 class, but smaller than a F-35).

Small side intakes (especially if using DSI) also imply that this might be using a middleweight, as opposed to heavyweight, engine. Rear, if we assume 10 meters wingspan, has a strange inner ring of about 750mm, which would also imply a middleweight engine.

LEVCON, to the best of my knowledge, looks like it's missing.

For comparison on the F-35's intakes:

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Seems a bit longer, but it's still uncertain as to why the Checkmate fighter is running middleweight or heavyweight engines.


The more important question is the timeline of the thing. If the first flight took place last year, the MiG-29 project implies it'll take 5 years for this to be introduced and enter the hands of export partners, or 2025, or possibly 2023 if the Indians get LRIP.

We still have a number of questions about this aircraft. It seems to be running Izdeliye 30 based off the nozzle measurement and geometry, but we need to have an idea of how good the stealth coating, the sensors, and the radar is. But let's say it's the real deal, an aircraft with stealth in the same range as the F-35, or quite likely, better.

In that regard, China has a few options available, sorted in implementation time:

1: Build HF counterstealth arrays in Tibet and Pakistan. HF is still the gold standard and at very low frequencies, is likely to detect B-21s or even B-2s. This is expensive, but doable with existing technology. (2021,2022, now)

2: Fast track the FC-31. While the airframe is underengined and is suffering from either range or payload problems, it's the closest China has for a 'pure stealth' fighter. It won't fully counter checkmate or the F-35, due to its twin-engined design, but it's a good stopgap.(2023,2024,2025)

3: With the J-20 having WS-15 come ready, fast track the J-20's strike versions. This will likely be tailless, relying on TVC for high AoA and yaw, representing an upgrade in stealth which will likely be better than that of the FC-31, except that the J-20 is a larger platform and thus intrinsically less stealthy. (2023,2024,2025)

4: Accelerate the development of Chinese laser weapons. Mature laser paradigms in aerial warfare can potentially defeat the stealth paradigm. (2025,2026,2027)

5: Work on China's own F-35 killer. A JF-17-sized platform can potentially be upgraded to 6th gen or near 6th gen levels of stealth. A sixth generation JF-17 can potentially present a counter as well to NGAD, pending laser maturity and the end of stealth as an emphasis. (2027,2028,2029)