Su-75 ‘Checkmate’: Russia Finds A Potential Customer For Its 5th-Gen Stealth Fighter Aircraft

Russia’s quest to secure a buyer for its fifth-generation Su-75 Checkmate fighter jet appears to yield results, with Nigeria reportedly showing keen interest in acquiring this single-engine stealth aircraft.

The Su-75 Checkmate is a fifth-generation single-engine fighter aircraft currently under development by Sukhoi, a subsidiary of the United Aircraft Corporation (part of Rostec). 

The fighter made its official debut at the MAKS-2021 aerospace exhibition in July 2021, and right from the outset, Moscow expressed its intentions to export the aircraft worldwide.

In 2021, Russia took its Checkmate marketing efforts further by releasing an advertising video that showcased “pilots” from countries such as Argentina, India, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam. 

This strategic move indicated Russia’s target markets and demonstrated its interest in promoting the aircraft internationally. It appears that Moscow is eager to have Nigeria join as a potential customer for this fighter aircraft. 

Russia’s Su-75 Checkmate aircraft

During the Russia-Africa forum, Dmitry Shugaev, the director of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC), told state-owned news agency RIA Novosti that Nigeria had shown its intent to acquire Russian fighter jets, including the state-of-the-art fifth-generation Checkmate aircraft.

Shugaev revealed that in the negotiations with Nigeria, the African nation displayed its inclination to procure modern fighter jets.

This enthusiasm arises from the foreign customer’s recognition and admiration of the tactical and technical excellence demonstrated by Russian-made aircraft. 

He added that the state-of-the-art Checkmate fighter aircraft has particularly captured the attention and interest of Nigeria. 

Shugaev also mentioned that discussing contracts at this stage is premature; nevertheless, the partners are actively considering various “Russian models of aviation equipment.”

Despite this, the director of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) did not provide specific details regarding the other aviation equipment Nigeria is considering for procurement.

However, Moscow disclosed that it partially fulfilled the contract for the supply of 12 Mi-35 combat helicopters ordered by Nigeria in October 2019.

Lack Of Buyers For Su-75 Checkmate Aircraft

The Checkmate, also known as the Su-75, is a fighter jet under development with a primary objective of competing in the global market.

This endeavor is driven by the Russian defense company’s emphasis on crafting technologically advanced aircraft that can stand out among its international counterparts.

During the MAKS 2021 event, when Russian President Vladimir Putin witnessed the initial aircraft presentation, reports unveiled the fighter’s planned first flight in 2023. 

Subsequently, the timeline indicated a preproduction batch completion in 2026, followed by full-scale serial production slated to begin a year later.

However, just a few months later, Yury Slyusar, CEO of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) of Rostec State Corporation, shared a new vision for the project in Dubai. He expressed the intention to expedite the entire process and aimed to initiate series production as early as late 2025. 

Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate - Wikipedia
Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate – Wikipedia

This ambitious plan signified a strategic effort to accelerate the development and delivery of the aircraft to the market.

But the main challenge in the aircraft’s development lies in the absence of a confirmed customer and co-development partner, which could ensure seamless progress. 

Early this year, Rostec, a state-owned Russian enterprise specializing in military hardware, indicated its willingness to invite India to participate in developing the Checkmate fighter jet.

In the past, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had also surfaced as a promising partner for the project.

This opportunity materialized during the IDEX defense exhibition in Abu Dhabi in February 2017 when Russia and the UAE signed an agreement to cooperate on a next-generation light fighter project jointly. 

This agreement was often regarded as the motivating factor that propelled the Russians to commence the Su-75 project. Despite initial optimism and subsequent affirmations that the cooperation remained valid, it ultimately failed to progress as expected. 

All in all, the envisioned collaboration between Russia and the UAE did not materialize as planned, leaving the Su-75 project without the intended joint development efforts from the two nations.

Yet Russian officials often stated that several countries are keen on procuring the Su-75 Checkmate aircraft. However, until now, no friendly nation has made any concrete commitment to procure the aircraft.

Furthermore, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and the subsequent geopolitical upheavals, there was a noticeable decline in the number of countries willing to consider buying Russian military equipment. As a result, the pool of potential buyers for the Su-75 aircraft became significantly limited.

Given the prevailing circumstances, it is highly likely that the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) would be the first and foremost customer for the Su-75.