The Chinese military has confirmed that it received four Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets in late December, but noted that the Su-35 might be the last combat plane China would import thanks to its own defense advances.
The People’s Liberation Army’s website, 81.cn, recently said that with the commissioning of the J-20, China’s domestically developed stealth fighter, Russia understood that the Su-35 “will lose its value on the Chinese market in the near future”, so was eager to complete the Su-35 deal. The Su-35 is Russia’s most advanced fighter jet in use.
The article also takes pride in the PLA no longer needing Russian-made air defense missiles or transport planes because it now has the indigenous, cuttingedge HQ-9B long-range surface-to-air missile and Y-20 strategic transport aircraft.
“Therefore we hope very much that Su-35 will be the last (combat) aircraft China imports,” it said.
This is the first time the Chinese military has confirmed deliveries of the Su-35, though it did not elaborate.
In late December, some Chinese military enthusiasts posted a photograph of what they said was a Su-35 with the PLA Air Force’s colors flying over a military air base in China, sparking a debate on whether deliveries of the aircraft had begun.
Sergey Chemezov, CEO of Rostec, Russia’s state technology corporation, said in November 2015 that Russia and China had signed a contract that was estimated to be worth $2 billion for 24 Su-35s. The deal was later confirmed by Wu Qian, a spokesman for China’s Defense Ministry.
Russian news agency TASS quoted an unnamed source within Russia’s international military-technical cooperation system as reporting in mid-December that the first deliveries of the aircraft were scheduled in 2017, but “eventually a decision was made to speed up the process and to provide the first batch in the last days” of 2016.
The Su-35 has engines that can point in different directions for increased maneuverability, and phased array antenna radar, which provides better performance against stealth aircraft. It has a maximum speed of 2,500 km/h and can fly 3,400 km without refueling, according to TASS. The fighter is armed with a 30 mm gun and can carry 12 bombs or missiles, the report said.
China bought a large number of Su-27 and Su-30 multirole fighter jets from Russia in the 1990s and early 2000s. China also has built licensed variants. These Sukhoi planes are a pillar of the PLA Air Force and the PLA Navy’s aviation wing.
Wang Ya’nan, editor-inchief of Aerospace Knowledge, told China Daily that the Su-35 will help the PLA fill the gap before it has enough J-20s. He said the new addition will also facilitate China’s efforts to upgrade its current Sukhoi jets.