Russian state-owned ROSTEC posted a tweet claiming that the Checkmate, will have the longest range and autonomy within the single-engine fighter category. Likewise, it would also be the one that could carry the largest payload.

Bold statements that merit comparison against the only fifth-generation single-engine fighter currently in service, and the one against which it may someday be measured on the battlefield, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning-II.


During the Checkmate’s official unveiling at the MAKS-2021 international show, it was reported that the fighter would have a clean range (without external fuel tanks) on the order of 2,800 kms (1.500 nm). Meanwhile, according to data provided by its manufacturer, the F-35 has a range of 2,200 kms (1.200 nm). Point for the Checkmate.


Regarding flight range, or more importantly, the time the aircraft can spend flying over the area of interest, loaded with weapons and waiting for a target to be assigned to it (a fundamental characteristic for ground support missions), in neither of the two cases is there any accurate data. There are many parameters that affect the amount of time an aircraft can fly over a given area, such as engine fuel consumption, aerodynamic efficiency, etc. And there are other variable parameters such as the fuel load of the aircraft, weight of the armament it carries, flight profile, weather, etc. To make this comparison, especially in the absence of much data on the Checkmate, is impossible.


This item is perhaps the most surprising in ROSTEC’s statement, as the F-35 can carry a maximum weapons load of up to 8,160 kg (18.000 lbs), split between its internal weapons bays and external wing pylons. This is a truly impressive number for a single-engine, surpassing even medium twin-engines such as the MiG-35, Eurofighter and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

On the other hand, the Checkmate’s declared maximum war load during its unveiling was 7,400 kg (16.314 lbs), which is not bad at all, but not enough to surpass the F-35. Until new data on the Checkmate’s capabilities emerge, the point for the combat payload category goes to the F-35.

However, payload (the one ROSTEC mentions) is more than just armament. Payload is everything the fighter can carry to perform the combat mission, which includes the pilot, electronic equipment, weapons and ammunition, and fuel.

If ROSTEC’s statement is true, it would mean that the payload will be largely composed of fuel, which would be related to the Range and Autonomy items. If we take into account that the F-35A carries the not inconsiderable sum of 8,278 kg (18.250 lbs) of internal fuel, it means that the Russian aircraft will carry a prodigious amount of fuel inside its fuselage.

Are The Checkmate Claims Likely?

First of all, it should be remembered that the F-35 is a fighter in full production, with more than 730 units delivered, and the Checkmate, for now, is a very nice (point for the Russian in beauty) mock up and good wishes (two points for the F-35 for existing).

F-35 UAE

Having stated the obvious, and having been at the Dubai Air Show 2021 standing next to the Checkmate, I can say that ROSTEC has every reason to make such statements. For a single-engine aircraft, the future Russian 5th generation fighter is big. It has plenty of internal volume. I would say it is bigger than the F-35A, which was also present as a mock up at the show.

Aerodynamically the Checkmate looks quite clean and almost slim, yet it a really big aircraft, that could hold the amount of fuel needed to meet ROSTEC’s forecasts.

Checkmate Dubai Air Show 2021

That’s me, happily posing next to the Checkmate, and enjoying the air conditioning in the place.

And these aspects could be of particular interest to the Russian Air Force, which has always been known for needing long-range fighter aircraft to patrol its vast territorial expanses. And attracting the interest of the Russian Air Force is of particular interest to Sukhoi and UAC, since without a firm order at home, it seems highly unlikely that they will manage to attract sufficient investment to enable the Checkmate to make the journey from mock-up to the long-awaited series production stage.