Sukhoi Checkmate LTS - Background
It is no secret that "the first single-engine light tactical aircraft in the modern history of Russia" was developed at the P.O.Sukhoi back in the early 1990s, already in the new Russia. Also at the beginning of this century RSK "MiG" offered the military to consider their project of a light fighter with very good characteristics, but MiG had no success either with Russia, or with potential international customers.
Over the past thirty years, there has been an endless and strange discussion about whether an aircraft of this class of fighter aircraft in Russia is needed or not. But things were not done. Meanwhile, the advantages of a single-engine fighter are obvious. It is cheaper in production, in military operation, it has more MTBF. In Soviet times, a jet engine was perfected on them, which was then installed on heavy twin-engine aircraft. There are other advantages that the Air Force command began to ignore in the late 1980s.
And suddenly, already in this century, it became clear that almost all countries that have their own air forces and at least some kind of aviation industry are engaged in single-engine combat winged vehicles. These are, for example, India, Turkey, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. In the PRC, over the past 25 years, they have designed, mastered in production and put into operation three versions of such fighters. And they are all with Russian engines. Even the United States, which used to treat light combat aircraft somehow condescendingly, also actively engaged in their development.
In the period from 1989 to 1992, a competition for projects of a training jet aircraft was held. The Sukhoi project turned out to be the most advanced. The aircraft, designated S-54, could reach speeds of up to 1650 km/h, fly at an altitude of 18 km, and had super-maneuverability. And it was distinguished by good stability in all flight modes.
That is, in 1992, a fairly elaborate project, albeit a training aircraft, was ready, but it had the characteristics of the best fighters even of modern times. The S-54, after minor modifications, could become a full-fledged fighter. However, despite the fact that the project was lobbied by the general designer Mikhail Simonov - then the most authoritative person in aviation circles - the Air Force did not accept the project. According to knowledgeable people, they did not accept it for the reason that the S-54 was supersonic and single-engine, and the Air Force command then decided that all fighters and training aircraft should only be twin-engine, and training aircraft should also be subsonic.
In the early 2000s, the Air Force held a competition to develop a prospective fighter. The Sukhoi firm offered a variant of the heavy machine. RSK MiG is a much lighter aircraft. The military chose a difficult project. which became the Su-57. But what prevented the Air Force, having given the victory to a heavy fighter, at the same time opening funding for the continuation of work on a light one, at least within the framework of research and development work? The arguments of the RSK MiG leadership, although they sounded convincing, were not taken into account.
By the end of the twentieth century, the Russian Air Force command removed from combat aviation and destroyed all single-engine vehicles - fighters and fighter-bombers, which were considered light. The Air Force completely lost, albeit not the most modern, but quite effective even by today's standards, combat aircraft - Su-17, MiG-27, MiG-23, MiG-21. By the way, all of these vehicles are still in service with many countries around the world. It is interesting that the fighters remaining in the Russian Air Force's fleet "learned" to work on the ground quite recently.
In December 2020, a carefully staged photograph that included a fragment of a model of an unknown fighter with a ventral air intake that was on the desktop of Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Yuri Borisov was published by the RBC agency [Borisov is a well known proponent of strategic disinformation]. The plane, delivered to Zhukovsky, is clearly designed as stealthy, and, apparently, has internal compartments for outboard weapons.
In turn, the RIA Novosti news agency, "a source in the aircraft industry" at the same time reported that "When creating the aircraft, it is planned to make extensive use of the groundwork accumulated within the framework of the creation of the Su-57, including the newest product 30 engine, radio-absorbing coatings, avionics, and an armament complex. The new aircraft should have a take-off weight of no more than 18 tons, its maximum speed will exceed Mach two, and the thrust-to-weight ratio (engine mass to thrust ratio) will be at least one. At the same time, it will differ in reduced radar signature, super-maneuverability and shortened take-off due to the deflected thrust vector of the engine. The fighter will have a single ventral multi-mode air intake, as is the case in many modern single-engine aircraft".
Rostec CEO Sergei Chemezov told reporters in December 2020 that the company was working on the concept of an advanced single-engine light-and medium-class piloted and unmanned combat plane. "Work is underway to develop a combat aviation system of the future in its light and medium classes. Under the design, this may be a universal platform in the manned and unmanned versions. The company is working on the concept and the operational requirements for such a platform. We are doing this on our own initiative so far, without [federal] budget funds," the Rostec chief said. The head of the state corporation stressed then that so far the Ministry of Defense has not made any orders. But Rostec is convinced of the advisability of creating a new aircraft, possibly in cooperation with foreign partners. He also explained that in the case of the development and creation of a prospective aircraft at the expense of the state corporation, it will be possible to independently supply it abroad.
Russia’s Sukhoi aircraft maker (part of the United Aircraft Corporation of Russia’s Rostec) is developing Russia’s first single-engine low-observable supersonic light tactical fighter aircraft, an aircraft industry source told TASS 25 May 2021. "The Sukhoi company is developing a single-engine light tactical plane with the takeoff weight of up to 18 tonnes. The plane’s maximum speed will be above 2 Mach. It will also have super-maneuverability and improved takeoff and landing performance, thanks to a thrust vector control engine. The plane’s thrust-to-weight ratio will be above 1," the source said.
A week before Russia's largest aerospace expo, International Aviation and Space Salon (MAKS), began near Moscow, Russia's United Aircraft Corporation, a conglomerate of the country's aircraft design bureaus and manufacturers, released a teaser video of a new fighter. The video appeared to show pilots from four states — the UAE, India, Vietnam and Argentina — waiting for the a aircraft. UAC announced it would present a "fundamentally new military aircraft" on July 20. A spokesperson for Rostec, Russia's armament export company, said, "Russia is one of the few countries in the world with full-cycle capacities for producing advanced aircraft systems, as well as a recognized trendsetter in the creation of combat aircraft. 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." UAC launched a website for the project that has been dubbed 'Checkmate'.
On 16 July 2021 the state corporation "Rostec" published on its official Facebook page photos of a new combat aircraft, which will be the main premiere of the MAKS-2021 aerospace show. A towed plane is visible, covered with a dark blue cover. And thus it becomes clear that the visitors of MAKS-2021 will be presented with a new Russian light tactical fighter equipped with one engine.
The return to the development of single-engine fighters was announced in December 2020 by the head of Rostec, Sergei Chemezov. Russian President Vladimir Putin "on the sidelines" of the MAKS-2021 International Aviation and Space Salon in Zhukovsky, near Moscow, examined the light tactical single-engine aircraft LTS "Sukhoi" and other novelties of the domestic aviation industry. Accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov and Head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, the President visited a pavilion specially built for the Sukhoi LTS, where the head of the UAC Yuri Slyusar spoke about the new product.
The first photographs of a secret aircraft, covered with a tarpaulin, appeared on the taxiway of the LII M.M.Gromov. The hangar itself is painted creatively - with a figure of a chess horse and the inscriptions in English: "Checkmate and Turn the Chessboard". Many saw this as a reference to the literary adventurer Ostap Bender. Arranging a simultaneous game at the Vasyukinsky chess club, this great schemer, who did not know how to play chess, won games and scandalously turned the boards over. Russian designers, perhaps, managed to make such an incomprehensible knight's move that the world aviation chessboard can really be turned over, the combat aircraft industry will start from scratch.
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