Russia’s Advertising Strategy for “Checkmate” Fighter Involves Perfume and Apache Helicopter

Russia’s leading fighter jet maker Sukhoi launched a second advertising campaign for its export single-engine Su-75 Checkmate fighter project at the Dubai Airshow, following the much-publicized unveiling of the concept aircraft in July at the MAKS show. near Moscow.

This time the stealth hunter is promoted with a scented limited edition fighter jet perfume, which, according to Sukhoi’s parent conglomerate, Rostec, uses “original samples of metal alloys, glass and leather trim from the fifth-generation hunter’s cockpit combined with light shades of juniper, patchouli and oakmoss. . The five main notes of the composition are well mixed thanks to the technogenic accord of the perfume.

But despite the piquant loot, the latest stylized “trailer” promoting Checkmate arguably skimp on one embarrassing detail.

In footage starting at the fifty-four second mark ostensibly illustrating the still-theoretical jet targeting system blowing up ground vehicles with precision weapons, the ad uses footage apparently taken from the unique targeting of the Target Acquisition Display. System (TADS) of an Apache AH-64 helicopter. system built by Lockheed Martin.

The abbreviation TADS is literally visible on the interface at the top and bottom left of images used in Russian advertising. Additionally, indicators of the number of remaining cannon shots for its 30mm cannon can be seen in the lower right corner of the HUD.

You can compare the two TADS sequences to the combat sequences of TADS on Apache helicopters below, which also carry the TADS tag.

The presence of Apache images was first remark (to the author’s knowledge) by Russian military expert Rob Lee on social media, who points out that TADS maker Lockheed-Martin builds the F-35 Lightning II export fighters Checkmate is intended for to compete.

TADS is combined with a Pilot Night Vision System (PNVS) and includes a cluster of infrared and electro-optical sensors and a laser range finder / target mounted in a flexible turret in the nose of an Apache attack helicopter designed to rotate there where the pilot is looking. The TADS / PNVS was first deployed with the first AH-64A aircraft models in 1983, although it received a modernization in the 2000s called the TADS / PNVS-M Arrowhead incorporating a second generation infrared sensor. , zoom capability and automatic target tracking.

Russia is building its own infrared / electro-optical targeting systems, although they are less widely used. For example, only a minority of Russian warplanes in Syria were equipped with targeting pods, and Russia is known to have relied on imported Western infrared sensors for certain military purposes to which it no longer has access.

Thus, it is not reassuring for advertisers to resort to imagery from an American system rather than Russian. It does, however, fit a pattern of misleading images from video games and even war movies in propaganda to promote favorable narratives.

No checkmate 2.0

Sukhoi claims that a prototype Su-75 could make its first flight in 2023, its super-fast assembly being facilitated by the use of components already developed for the heavier Su-57 stealth aircraft. However, it is not clear if development can actually happen that quickly and if the funding is there to make it happen.

Indeed, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has not only been targeted by Sukhoi as a potential customer, but also as a hoped-for source of development finance and aircraft components. In fact, Checkmate could be linked to a project announced in 2017 for Russia and the United Arab Emirates to jointly develop a new jet fighter. However, some observers believe the UAE’s low-energy courtesy to sales of Russian fighter jets may be more aimed at putting pressure on the United States, which has been hesitant but is expected to continue selling F- stealth jets. 35.

While the Russian military has claimed it will buy the plane – arguably a necessary confidence-building measure, but no more indication than a token purchase – it is primarily intended for export to countries with no neither the political connections nor the financial means to acquire and maintain American F-35 stealth jets. India, Argentina, Vietnam, as well as other operators in Africa, Asia and South America are all hoped for as customers.

The narrator of the latest promo video also mentions that Checkmate will ‘break the rules’, arguably not only in a tactical sense, but implicitly by providing access to countries that cannot buy F-35s due to their record of human rights or not approved by Washington for other reasons.

Emphasizing the proclaimed low cost plane, he specifies: “It is the plane for who knows that the economy is the essential of any victory”. On this theme, the end of the video apparently implies that customers could build Checkmate jets for themselves, possibly as part of some sort of licensed arrangement similar to India’s production of Su-30MKI jets.

The narrator also points out that the Su-75 would have open architecture systems and could be assembled to customer specifications, implying that hypothetical customers could have substantial access to its computers and hardware allowing for modifications. , including home software and hardware. This may be intended to contrast with Lockheed’s maintenance of a high degree of control over F-35 computers, which has frustrated operators, including the US Air Force.

Marketing also depicts a Checkmate fighter working in conjunction with two drones: a surveillance drone and a jet loyal wing-style combat drone which is actually a smaller, unmanned variant of Checkmate. (The unmanned Su-75 is believed to be of greater interest to the Russian military than the piloted variant.) Emphasizing the Su-75’s intended capabilities as a drone control platform, it can be assumed that the multitude of Russian combat drones are expected to enter service in the 2020s.

However, the extent of the Su-75’s stealth functionality remains unclear. Although marketed as a fifth-generation (i.e. stealth) jet and clearly displaying some unobservable features like internal weapon bays, the manufacturer has been cautious in its language as to whether it is acted with a furtive jet.

An article by the Russian state news agency TASS, in particular, boasts that the Su-75 can protect itself by performing missions “outside the air defense weapons area of ​​operation” – not the kind language used to promote a stealth jet designed to enter enemy airspace.

If Sukhoi can still prove to be a versatile fighter as inexpensive and quick as he claims, then Checkmate can still attract foreign clients even if he is not really a true stealth fighter. We will know in a few years whether the still conceptual plane will be able to take off.

Sébastien Roblin writes on the technical, historical and political aspects of international security and conflict for publications such as The National Interest, NBC News, and War is Boring. He holds an MA from Georgetown University and served with the Peace Corps in China. You can follow his articles on Twitter.

Image: Reuters

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Steven L. Nielsen