Russia will sell Beijing hi-tech jets, reports say

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 December, 2010, 12:00am

Russia has signalled its intention to sell advanced fourth-generation Su-35 fighter jets and other sophisticated weapons to China, a reversal of its previous policy of denying Beijing access to such equipment, military and diplomatic experts said.

The multi-role fighter is expected to roll off assembly lines by the end of the year, with the first batch set for China between 2010 and 2015, according to Russian media.

Local media and military experts indicate that China has ordered up to 48 Su-35 Flanker-Es, enough to equip two fighter groups in the People's Liberation Army Air Force.

'The number 48 does make sense because in last year's Su-33 carrier-based fighter aircraft deal, Russia also requested that China order as many as 48 jets, because Moscow would only make a profit if the order was more than 40,' Antony Wong Dong, president of Macau's International Military Association, said.

But that deal was turned down by Beijing after it successfully tested its indigenous carrier-capable fighter, the J-15, which many say is a copy of the Russian Su-33.

The Su-35 is the most advanced fighter jet that Russia exports.

Russia has complained that China's J-series fighters - from the J-10 to the J-15 - are just inferior copies of its Su originals and even blacklisted Beijing as an arms-sales client last year.

But Russian reports last month said Beijing had resumed negotiations on the Su-33 deal because China had found that the engine designed for the J-15 failed to compete with the Russian engine used in the Su-33.

'In fact, Russia has sold many AL-31F engines, which could be used in both the Su-33 and J-15, to China already,' Andrei Chang, the editor-in-chief of the Canada-based Kanwa Defence Review, said.

Besides Su-35s, Moscow has also decided to offer 100 RD-93 jet engines, which China uses in its exported Fighter China-1 (a lightweight multi-role aircraft developed jointly with Pakistan), and even its S-400 missile system to Beijing, Russian media reported.

But Chang said Russia would not deliver Su-35s and S-400 systems to China before 2017. 'Top officials from Beijing and Moscow are now talking about the deals, but my Russian sources tell me that so far, the two weapons are not on their export list for China,' Chang said, adding the S-400 was not yet in production.

Russia's state-run arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, said it was ready to hold talks with China on the delivery of advanced Su-35 fighters to the Chinese air force, the Moscow-based RIA-Novosti news agency said.

It said the Russian aircraft maker Sukhoi had said that it planned to start deliveries of Su-35s to foreign clients next year and produce the aircraft over the next 10 years.

RIA-Novosti said the latest developments should further contribute to the warmest Sino-Russian relations in history, with Beijing and Moscow more willing to address disputes involving the intellectual property rights of Russia's weapon technologies.

It said both Russia and China had agreed to resolve the issue of the illegal production of Russian arms in China during talks at this year's biennial air show in Zhuhai .

With Sino-Russian relations never better, it was 'very possible' for both countries to compromise over such disagreements, Cheng Yijun, a Russian relations expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said.

'Both Russia and China need each other to balance their ties with the US in the Asia-Pacific. Indeed, current Sino-Russian relations are the best and healthiest in history because of their equality and interdependency,' Cheng said, highlighting the growing trade and close co-operation in aerospace and aeronautical projects between the two countries.

'Arms imports from Russia have been decreasing over the past few years due to China's rapid development of indigenous weapons, but in sophisticated technologies, China still needs to co-operate with Russia, with all our astronauts being trained by Moscow.'

Arm in arm over arms

The number of Su-35 Flanker-E fighter jets Russia reportedly will sell Beijing: 48