By Pepe Escobar
August 01, 2021 "Asia times" The annual
MAKS aerospace show kicked off its 2021 installment
at Zhukovsky Airport outside Moscow – not with a
bang, but with multiple bangs.
MAKS – whose name is an acronym for the Russian
mouthful Mezhdunarodnyj aviatsionno-kosmiches, literally
international aviation and space show – is famous
for showing off the latest hits in aerospace and
defense technology from major Russian and foreign
The lands of Islam would not have failed to
notice that President
Vladimir Putin’s welcoming address fell exactly
on Eid al-Adha – and the president made sure to
note, in a nod to ethnic integration, that 20% of
Russian aviation industry employees are Muslims.
The undisputed star of MAKS 2021 was Checkmate,
concisely described by military analyst Oleg
Panteleev as a single-engine, 5G light tactical
fighter – and teased before the official
presentation with a
Hollywood-style ad tailored for global customers
(UAE, India, Vietnam, Argentina).
Checkmate is already being hailed across the
Global South as the new epitome of lethal beauty –
like the aerial equivalent of a pair of Louboutin
pumps. It will probably be known by the less sexy
denomination Su-75: after all, Checkmate belongs to
the Sukhoi family.
The CEO of Rostec’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC),
Yuri Slyusar, says that production of Checkmate
start in 2026, after a series of complex tests.
Here is Rostec’s
full presentation (in Russian), where we learn
that Checkmate “can carry up to five air-to-air
missiles of various ranges in its top version,”
including the entire spectrum of 5G missiles.
This means that Checkmate can carry all weapons
deployed by the Su-57 jet fighter – another star of
MAKS 2021. Slyusar explained that Checkmate’s design
was based on the Su-57.
The Sukhoi Su-57 – which made an exhibition
flight at MAKS – is a fifth-generation multi-role
fighter conceived to raise hell against all types of
air, ground and naval targets.
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The Su-57 features stealth technology utilizing a
vast array of composite materials; reaches
supersonic cruising speed; and comes with a very
powerful onboard computer – described as an
“electronic second pilot” – and a radar system
spread across its body.
Weapons export firm Rosoboronexport, via its CEO
Alexander Mikheyev, says five nations are already
interested in buying the Su-57.
No hangar queen
Yet the first day at MAKS was all about
Checkmate. Military analyst Andrei Martyanov, in his
inimitable style, summed
it all up: “This Checkmate or, if you wish,
Su-75 is not a hangar queen and is designed for
battle and, in the end, it is Su-57 Lite and a
platform (I stress it – platform) which gives birth
to very many other variants of this aircraft. Do not
also forget that Su-57 will also be offered for
Checkmate, according to chief designer Mikhail
Strelets, essentially has a single engine with a
deflected thrust vector; goes supersonic for a long
time; and has a shortened take-off and landing
compared with the Su-57. The West will be
uncomfortable when it comes to further comparisons
between Checkmate’s efficiency and that of the not
exactly brilliant F-35.
Some of Checkmate’s most important features,
according to UAC, include: flying
at high altitude in all kinds of weather;
modularity; simplified maintenance and operations;
post-sale support; “good transportation capability”
(range and endurance); “AI support for combat
missions”; “low flight hour cost and large payload”;
and, most important of all for international
clients, good value for money.
Oh yes: there will be an unmanned “variant.” UAC
is already working on it.
In parallel to MAKS, the Russians also conducted
another test of the
“Prometheus” missile system, which for all
practical purposes is beyond any competition in
terms of intercepting the whole range of current –
and even future – air and space attack at top
altitudes and speeds.
For years, Martyanov has been writing in detail
about the whole process in his books and articles.
Quantum Bird, a top physicist from the CERN in
Geneva, tells me that “with Prometheus getting
online, NATO gets the worst-case scenario vis-a-vis
Russia: NATO attacking missiles getting intercepted
even before leaving their territory, with Russia’s
retaliatory response getting there before or
together with the interceptors. Prometheus can also
handle inconvenient low-orbit spy satellites NATO
likes to fly over Russia.”
One day before the start of MAKS, Russia also
Tsirkon hypersonic missile, launched from the
frigate Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union
Gorshkov in the White Sea, at Mach 7, against a
ground target 350 km away in the coast of the
Barents Sea. The Russian Defense Ministry said the
missile hit “a bullseye.” Tsirkon hypersonic
missiles will be equipping Russian submarines and
The 3M22 Tsirkon/3M22 Zircon (NATO
reporting name: SS-N-33) is a scramjet-powered
maneuvering hypersonic cruise missile being
developed by Russia. Credit: Handout.
Martyanov concisely explains the “secret” – which
is no secret – of all these technological advances:
“It is like milking a productive cow – once you have
a great healthy cow, you just take care of it and
milk it. Same here, but you need to make the right
strategic decisions, which consider all trends. That
is how you get S-500, Zircon, Su-57 and this new
one. Chinese aircraft will not be able to compete
with Su-75 in former Soviet markets and the F-35 is
not a competitor to it at the international level.
In a sense, it is a checkmate.”
For denizens of America’s Thinktankland, already
losing sleep over Su-35s, S-400 missile systems and
silent submarines, what the future is bringing is
extra insomnia over hypersonic missiles, the S-500
Prometheus and an array of early warning systems and
Russia spends on its military industry roughly 12
cents for every dollar the US spends. The practical
result is that the Beltway is consistently
out-planned, out-designed and out-gunned.
Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil, is the roving
correspondent for Hong Kong/Thailand-based Asia
Times and analyst for Toronto/Washington-based The
Real News. Since the mid-1980s,
he has lived and worked as a foreign correspondent
in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles and
Singapore/Bangkok. Since 9/11 he has extensively
covered Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia, China,
Iran, Iraq and the wider Middle East. He is the
author of Globalistan:
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