India Expected To Seek New Russian Stealth Fighter To Counter China: Chinese Media
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India Expected To Seek New Russian Stealth Fighter To Counter China: Chinese Media

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The fifth-generation Checkmate is likely to offer advanced stealth capability but will sell at a much lower cost than the US’ F-35. The Indian Air Force has no fighters that can match China’s J-20

India will be keen to buy a newly unveiled Russian stealth fighter to help counter China’s forces along their disputed border, according to military analysts.

The maker highlighted its stealth abilities and relatively low cost, which is expected to be a major selling point internationally.

Sukhoi said the fifth-generation fighter had a top speed of Mach 2 and an operational range of 3,000km (1,865 miles) and a payload of 7.4 tons.

It is expected to make its maiden flight in 2023 and deliveries could start in 2026. Russia plans to produce 300 of the planes over 15 years to replace its depleted fighter squadrons.

Details of the technology used in the planes have yet to be made public, but Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military analyst, said its aerodynamic design suggested it has better stealth capabilities than the Sukhoi Su-57, Russia’s first fifth-generation fighter which entered service in December last year.

Only three other fifth-generation fighters are in service,

China’s Chengdu J-20 and Lockheed Martin’s F-22 and F-35 from the United States. The F-35 Lightning II is the only stealth fighter available for export, but sales are limited to US allies.

Heavy demand for the planes also means there is a backlog, because Lockheed Martin’s production lines can only deliver between 100 and 200 a year.

The Checkmate will cost US$25-30 million, according to Sergei Chemezov, chief of Russia’s state aerospace and defence conglomerate ROSTEC– a significant price advantage over the F-35, which costs at least US$100 million.

Chemezov said the Checkmate was expected to be in demand from countries in the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

The most likely buyer of the Checkmate is India, which is a major buyer of Russian warplanes, according to Song Zhongping, a Chinese military commentator and former PLA trainer.

“The sales of stealth fighters are very political and still largely based on the political divide,” he said.

India had reportedly been in discussions with Lockheed Martin about buying the F-35, but did not go ahead with the deal. However, it is eager to acquire a fifth-generation fighter following last year’s border stand-off with China.

After a deadly clash, China deployed its J-20s to front-line airfields, but the best response India could make was its French-made Dassault Rafales – a 4.5 generation fighter.

Song said it was too early to predict what would happen if India acquired a stealth fighter.

Another impact will probably be on China’s FC-31, another fifth-generation stealth fighter which is still under development intended for the international market.

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