Russia (and the former Soviet Union) has always been notorious for secrecy and opaqueness in how it showed new weapon systems. For instance, before a new Soviet/Russian fighter was officially unveiled to the world, photographs of it were always difficult to obtain for media and ‘plane spotters’, given security at bases and factories.
However, over the last week, Russia’s arms industry has, arguably, adopted the technique of mobile phone makers and carmakers to provide glimpses of a new fighter. Last week, Russian arms industry conglomerate Rostec and its main aircraft manufacturing company, United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), announced they would officially launch a new fighter, dubbed the Checkmate, on July 20.
The Checkmate aircraft would be launched on the opening day of the International Aviation and Space Salon 2021 (MAKS), Russia’s main air show. A trailer of the new fighter provoked curiosity as the silhouette of the aircraft appeared to resemble the MiG-35, a fighter that had failed to win any foreign orders since its launch in 2007. The trailer also showed an Indian pilot prominently, giving rise to speculation the new project was aimed as an export offering to the Indian Air Force and other customers.
Since then, plane spotters and Rostec itself have given glimpses of the new aircraft, which is kept at the Zhukovsky International Airport, the venue of MAKS. The images confirmed Checkmate was not a facelift of the MiG-35.
The aircraft could be seen hidden under a black tarpaulin cover, but enough details could be gauged.