China, Russia Negotiate a $4 billion Sale of 48 Flanker-E (Su-35)

The second Su-35 prototype seen on demonstration flights. Photo: Sukhoi
The second Su-35 prototype on tone of the est flights. Photo: Sukhoi

Russia and China are negotiating a US$4 billion arms package covering the delivery of 48 Russian Su-35 Flanker-E fighter jets to the Chinese Air Force. The Moscow based Kommersant newspaper reports. According to the Russian source, both sides have already agreed on the financial terms, but the protection of intellectual property (preventing reverse engineering) remains unsettled. “Moscow is not only aiming to ensure its presence on the Chinese market, but also attempting to prevent the potential copycat production of Russian aircraft for subsequent sales to third parties with predatory pricing” the Kommersant quoted a Russian government source saying. The Su-35 is considered the latest derivative of the Flanker platform, which dates back to the mid-1970s (the T-10 prototype flew on May 10, 2977). Su-35 is superior even to the Su-30 currently representing the latest member of this family.

In the past, most of the Chinese fighter planes were based on foreign designs, primarily of Russian origin. These include the MiG-17 (J-5), MiG-19 (J-6), MiG-21 (J-7), Su-27 (J-11) and Su-33 (J-15). The original fighters were initially bought from the Soviet Union, and later copied and produced in China primarily for local use. Some of these designs were altered significantly resulting in new aircraft carrying similar designations. These included the A-5, and F-8II. China has also developed completely new designs, including the FC-1, J-17 and the latest J-20.

The Russian Su-35 is a new Generation 4++ fighter. With three prototypes currently performing flight-testing, the aircraft is expected to enter service with the Russian Air Force in 2014. The Russian Air Force has ordered 48 aircraft. Two 117S engines with thrust vectoring power this multi-role air superiority fighter that weighs up to 14.5 tons on takeoff. With an operational range of 3,600 km, 59,000 foot ceiling and Mach 2.25 top speed Su-35 can effectively engage several air targets simultaneously, employing the latest avionics systems and sensors available for a Russian made platform.