The new Russian stealth fighter apparently has a very large wing. It could mean two things.
It could be that Sukhoi, the company behind the new “Checkmate” fighter, is eventually aiming to sell Checkmate to the Russian Navy for use from the fleet’s only aircraft carrier.
It could also be that Checkmate – which Rostec, Sukhoi’s parent company, clearly aims to offer for export – is supposed to operate at high altitudes, where a large wing is advantageous.
Rostec gradually revealed Checkmate ahead of the MAKS air show at Ramenskoye airfield in Moscow oblast. Late last week, photos leaked of the Checkmate mockup or demonstrator under a tarp. Then, photos circulated representing the failure and mate discovered. Finally on Tuesday, Rostec orchestrated an official unveiling.
The photos reveal the main features of the Checkmate design. Its straightforward entry and angular rudders indicate a small radar signature. And what appears to be a large wing for such a short fighter could involve either a naval application, a high ceiling, or both.
A large wing increases lift and allows an aircraft to climb higher than a similar design with a smaller wing can. The downside is that a large wing can drag and result in a slower top speed compared to a small wing design.
The extra lift is an obvious bonus for a naval fighter who needs to take off and land on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Consider the US Navy’s F-35 variant. The Navy’s F-35C has a wing that is again almost half the size of the wing of the land-based F-35A. This large wing helps the F-35C operate safely from fleet supercarriers with their steam catapults.
The only flattop in the Russian Navy, the sick Admiral Kuznetsov, has a 1001 foot bridge but does not have catapults. This makes a large wing even more valuable. Russian naval fighters need all the lift they can get.
Checkmate’s large wing could be invaluable even if the Navy goes over the guy. A high ceiling has obvious advantages for sensor coverage and weapon range. A high-flying hunter can see and shoot farther than a low-level hunter can.
It is not for nothing that Lockheed Martin designed the US Air Force’s F-22 stealth fighter to operate “above 50,000 feet.” The actual ceiling of the type could be 60,000 feet.
Checkmate could rise between 40,000 and 60,000 feet, “if not even higher,” according to Tom cooper, aviation expert and author. “I would say: optimized for high altitude operations. “
Flying high also grants a range advantage. Checkmate might need help in this regard. Its small overall size seems to hint at a modest internal fuel capacity.