Chinese military set for capability boost with delivery of Russian Su-35 fighter jets
Military experts predict big gains for China’s air force when last batch of Russian fighters arrives
China’s air force is set for a big boost to its range and capability with its last batch of Su-35 fighter jets on track for delivery at the end of this year, military observers said.
The Russian government confirmed on Monday that the last 10 Sukhoi Su-35 multirole fighters would be delivered on schedule.
News service Sputnik reported that Russia would supply the jets as well as missiles and other logistical support.
China became the first foreign country to purchase the Su-35 – an upgrade to the Su-27 – when it agreed in November 2015 to pay US$2.5 billion for 24 planes. They are China’s first fighter jets powered by thrust-vectoring engines for super-manoeuvrability.
The first four were delivered in 2016 and another 10 last year.
The Su-35 is powered by two AL-117S turbofan engines and fitted with thrust-vectoring nozzles enabling it to perform post-stall manoeuvres at low speeds.
The Su-35 also features a multifunctional radar capable of tracking up to 30 targets simultaneously – and purportedly able to engage with up to eight – as well as a newly integrated receiver for China’s Beidou satellite navigation system.
Long-range air-to-air missiles carried by the Su-35s could reach American aerial refuelling tankers in the Pacific.
“The Su-35 sports better avionics including radar, and a more capable set of turbofan engines for enhanced manoeuvrability,” said Collin Koh, a research fellow with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
“These specific technologies will allow China to further develop local, improved variants that will benefit the development of future generation fighters,” he said.
“At least for now, the Su-35 in active People’s Liberation Army service can provide a top of the line air superiority fighter.”
Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military observer, said the arrival of the 10 remaining fighter jets would enhance China’s training programme for new pilots.
“For the next-generation fighter jets like the J-20, more Su-35s means more platforms to train pilots since China does not have more sophisticated training platforms,” Song said.
Beijing flexed its military muscle in May against Taiwan, flying Sukhoi Su-35 fighters with H-6K strategic bombers across the Bashi Channel between the self-ruled island and the northern islands of the Philippines.
Beijing is annoyed by Washington’s growing support for Taiwan. Last week, Beijing lodged a protest to Washington when the island’s independence-leaning president Tsai Ing-wen made a stopover in the United States while on a foreign visit.
It is not known whether China’s most advanced stealth fighter, the home-grown J-20, was part of the Taiwan mission.