What Russian weapons are being bought by China?

The US has imposed military sanctions on China for its purchase of fighter jets and missiles but what else is on the shopping list?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 2:49pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 5:55pm

China, which was targeted by US military sanctions on Thursday for buying Russian fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles, is one of Russia’s key arms customers.

Russia sold around US$15 billion worth of weapons to the Chinese in 2017, maintaining a similar level of sales to the previous year, according to Rosoboronexport, the Russian agency responsible for military exports.

The US has said the sanctions, which relate to the purchase of Su-35 combat aircraft and an S-400 surface-to-air missile system, mainly target Russia and it has no intention of undermining the defence capacity of other nations.

Russia is the world’s second biggest exporter of arms behind the United States, who together account for more than half of all global arms exports, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

China accounts for six per cent of all sales and is among the top five importers of arms, along with India, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Saudi Arabia.

US slaps sanctions on Chinese military unit for buying Russian jets, missiles

Here are some of the military items Russia sells to China:


The US State Department said China received 10 Su-35 combat aircraft in December 2017, becoming the first foreign country to purchase Russia’s upgrade to its Su-27.

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.

Beijing again flexes military muscle, sending fighter jets, bombers around Taiwan

Beijing flexed its military muscle in May against Taiwan, flying Su-35 fighters with H-6K strategic bombers across the Bashi Channel between the self-ruled island and the northern islands of the Philippines.


The State Department also said China bought an S-400 system this year, the first regimental set delivered as part of a contract signed in 2014.

As one of the world’s top air defence systems, the S-400 includes missiles with different ranges, from 40km to 400km, which can hit targets from altitudes of 10m to 30km to form a multi-layer full coverage of defence.

The S-400’s advanced radar capability improves detection of stealth aircraft and the ability to counter electronic jamming.

One S-400 system features 384 missiles and up to 72 launchers. It can track 300 targets at the same time and attack 36 at once. It can hit a target travelling at a maximum speed of 4,800 metres per second, or Mach 15.

Russia is also set to sell the S-400 to Turkey, which has raised concerns within Nato.


China bought seven Kamov Ka-32A11VS multirole helicopters in 2016, and two more in 2017 from Russian Helicopters holding company. The contracts included training for Chinese pilots.

The multipurpose helicopters are suitable for a wide variety of missions, including firefighting, search and rescue operations, and patrolling.

The Ka-32 is a highly versatile craft, capable of carrying cargo inside its fuselage as well as externally. Its coaxial rotor allows it to make precise landings in mountainous terrain or dense urban environments.

China hits back at American sanctions over Russian fighter jet and missile purchases

It can also be equipped with a range of special equipment, such as water cannons for fire fighting, and performs well in the face of dense smoke or dust. It is also suitable for high altitude construction and cargo transport.


China has also ordered 150 AL-31F turbofan engines from Russia. By the end of last year, 100 had been delivered, according to Sweden-based think tank SIPRI.

China placed this order primarily for its Shenyang J-15 “Flying Shark” carrier-based fighters, a made-in-China modification of the Sukhoi Su-27 “Flanker” fighter. The AL-31 series is the basic engine developed for the extensive Su-27 family.

China is believed to have built a few dozen J-15 fighters which are understood to be in service on-board the Liaoning aircraft carrier.

In addition, some AL-31FM engines have been fitted to early test types of the Chengdu J-20, a fifth generation stealth fighter.

Later versions of the J-20 have used home-made WS-10 engines but neither engine could fully meet the need for speed, manoeuvrability and stealth of China’s most advanced fighter jet.

China has also bought nearly 400 AL-31FN engines for its home-made Chengdu J-10 fighters and 10 AL-41F-1S engines have been ordered as spare parts for the Su-35 fighters.


The Soloviev D-30 (PS-30) is a Soviet Union era two-shaft low-bypass turbofan engine, used to power aircraft such as the Y-20 military transport and H-6K bomber.

The H-6K bomber, which entered service in October 2009, has a claimed combat radius of 3,500 kilometres with the D-30 engines.

Additional reporting by Teddy Ng