China has confirmed receiving four Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets in late December, but said that Su-35 could be the last combat plane China would import because of advances in its own fighter jet program.
The People’s Liberation Army’s website recently mentioned that with the commissioning of the J-20 domestically developed stealth fighter by China, Russia has understood that the Su-35 “would be losing its value on the Chinese market in the near future”, so was eager to complete the Su-35 deal.
The People’s Liberation Army does not require Russian-made air defense missiles or transport planes anymore because currently it has indigenous HQ-9B long-range surface-to-air missile and Y-20 strategic transport aircraft, China Military Online reported today.
“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. 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, leading to debate if the deliveries of the aircraft had started.
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.
The Su-35 will help the PLA fill the gap before it has enough J-20s, Wang Ya’nan, editor-inchief of Aerospace Knowledge, told China Daily. He said the new addition will also facilitate China’s efforts to upgrade its current Sukhoi jets.