Russia showcases Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate as cost effective alternative to US F-35 at Dubai Airshow

Even as the United Arab Emirates is set to purchase US F-35 fighter jets, Russia is showing off the prototype of its latest fifth-generation fighter plane at the Dubai Airshow.

Unveiled in July, the showcasing of the Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate at the Dubai Airshow marks the first showcase outside Russia.

According to a report from Russian state news agency, the Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate was visited by an Emirati delegation.

Moscow showcased a glitzy English-language computer simulation video showed of the tactical warplane, capable of carrying five air-to-air missiles, which can simultaneously destroy multiple targets at once.

Russia is pitching the Checkmate as a cost effective fifth generation fighter jet that can fly at speeds of Mach 1.8 and has a range of 2,800-2,900 kilometres.

The Checkmate is scheduled to take its maiden test flight in 2023 with production slated to commence in 2026. It has yet to get an order. In comparison, the F-35 entered, entered service in 2015 with the U.S. Marine Corps.

According to Yury Slusar, head of United Aircraft Corp, part of Russia’s state aerospace and defence conglomerate, Rostec, there had been “intensive contacts” with the Russian air force.

Western diplomats doubt whether Gulf states, which are allied to the US, would buy sophisticated Russian equipment such as the Checkmate; incidentally in recent years, the sale of Russian hardware to the Gulf has increased.

In 2017, the UAE signed a preliminary deal to buy Sukhoi Su-35 warplanes and jointly work with Russia on a next generation fighter. So far, the project has not made much progress.

“The UAE likes the idea of cultivating ties with the Russian defence industry but it’s mainly a way to send a message to the U.S.,” said Jean-Loup Samaan, senior research fellow with the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore.

Sale of 50 F-35 Lighting II fighter jets to the UAE has slowed down following concerns of UAE’s relations with China, especially the prevalence of Huawei 5G technology in the UAE.

The U.S. agreed to sell the plane after the UAE last year established ties with Israel.

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