Russia and China Close to SU-35 Deal...Again
Image Credit: Wikicommons

Russia and China Close to SU-35 Deal...Again


Amidst all the fanfare surrounding China’s increasingly impressive roster of homemade aircraft, Beijing has doggedly maintained its pursuit of Russia’s best military plane, the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet. Reports this week suggest that this persistence may finally have paid off, and that a deal with the Russians is now close to being sealed.

The deal’s revival reveals much about the motivations of Beijing and Moscow. Both sides had good reason to give up on the whole idea after the agreement first ran into trouble earlier this year. Landing indigenously developed J-15s on an aircraft carrier, or testing new stealth fighters – these are kind of the boosterish headlines that China’s leadership enjoys, as they feed into the narrative of China as an up-and-coming power with the capability to leap technological hurdles. Buying off-the-shelf planes from Russia does the exact opposite: It is an admission that China still has limitations, and that is still a playing catch-up.

As for the Russians, the thought of their prize fighter jet being stripped down, copied and mass-produced with nothing more than a thin coat of Chinese paint looked like it would be too much for Moscow to stomach, as it refused to sell Beijing small numbers of the aircraft.

Ultimately, however, self-interest seems to prevailed on both sides, with China supposedly agreeing to acquire 24 Su-35s – not as many as the Russians wanted, but just about enough to make the sale worthwhile.

China clearly needs the Su-35, perhaps for its military capabilities, perhaps for its technology, and probably for both. Moscow may fret that after buying one batch of 24 aircraft China will not come back for more. But for the Chinese the hard part – the act of buying from a foreign supplier – is now over. So a follow-on order is possible, especially if the PLA has argued for the Sukhoi because it needs the aircraft for military reasons. Certainly, as tensions simmer in the East Sea and the South China Sea, arguments for buying the Su-35 as a frontline fighter become increasingly compelling. China’s current aircraft are almost certainly overmatched by Japanese F-15s, for example.

Russia, for its part, needs China’s business, since many of its once-stalwart customers are no longer reliable markets. China is close to achieving self-reliance in defense production: The Su-35 sale could be Moscow’s last hurrah in that particular marketplace. India, once heavily dependent on Russian kit, is diversifying its supply base. Vietnam’s economic situation is precarious, and Hanoi could struggle to pay for the Russian systems it has already ordered, let alone acquire more. All bets are off as far as Syria is concerned. And future orders from Venezuela could depend on Hugo Chavez’s parlous state of health.

So Moscow will hold its nose as it sells its best fighter aircraft to the Chinese. And the sale could produce more than just Beijing’s cash. Perhaps by handing China the highly capable Su-35, Russia is hoping to create demand for its fighter aircraft elsewhere in the region.

Spider VU
June 14, 2013 at 13:16

If it happens that Russia is selling even 1xSu 35,,,Mother Russia will be sorry again…The Su 27's story probably had not given a leeson yet…..Red Chna,since 5000 years ago,has a story of stealing,copying and selling cheap  copies  to others.In the long run.If she's able to buy the Su 35 jets or any other Russian  jet(s),it's Russia who becomes the biggest loser to-day and to-morrow…..Russia is a very big country,yet she has become a lame duck if not fooled by the Chinese….If Russia stops eating chinese food,,,she would become smarter on how to deal with Red China….First, never buy anything chinese…second,never shake hand with a chinese….Thirdly,never sells anything to the chinese…Fourhtly.always stand ready for war with the chinese..So save your monies and energies and be prepared for conflict and war with Red Chna!,….Good luck,Russia !…

major lowen gil marquez
December 17, 2012 at 08:21

The Russian Military plane business will be in big trouble if the will sell some SU-35 to chinese communist China for one deal and single quota only for not morethan a couple od dozens, the intent of the Chinese is to aquire this latest aircraft in order to clone it and will have a mass produce in China and will use it to invade the Western Philippine Sea, The Japanese territory and other South East Asian nation. This dealings will just killing the ghatoose that lay a golden eggs on the side of the Russian People…

December 7, 2012 at 02:02

If Russia loses the control of Siberia, it will not be because of China, it will be Russia no longer can maintain its effective control over Siberia, just like the way it lost control of all its former republics in the USSR.  
Russian population is declining fast and the exodus of Siberia makes Russia maintaining its control of Siberia unsustainable, that’s why Russians are abusing Siberia before they lose it. Russia should negotiate an arrangement with China that it can obtain a long term stream of income by letting China manage the Siberia for them.  It will be the smartest thing Putin could do for Russia

Typical propaganda line. You are spotted Mr Chan. 
As China lost control of Taiwan, I'm sure you agree it's better to let Taiwan manage itself… right?
Here are your 50 cents. As for Siberia, dream about it.

December 7, 2012 at 01:59

India is going to acquire french Rafales… You know, the very same place that did got F-22 on target during dogfights in UAE.
Rgds from India

December 7, 2012 at 01:54

#1 being the westerners are liars, their words do not match their actions.
#2, being the westerners wish to continue to exploit the blood and sweat of the poor Chinese laborers, so that they can live beyond their means like parasites?

Typical paid posters, just reading the first line.
If China has better planes, they dont need to buy from others. That's all. Now with what happened, we just know what the truth is.

December 5, 2012 at 08:57

Just get the news that Ford is reviving Lincolin brand and comitting a billion.
What's wrong with this dude Lincoln vs Cadillac? bi;rther right?

December 5, 2012 at 08:48

Words of 'Steal/Copy' not used for once! 
Words of 'Threat of China'…… not used again!
WOW! so threatened!!!

December 5, 2012 at 08:42

On the other side, India is very concerned as the 'DEAL' involved more than just 24 Su-35 (sale of S400/IL-78/…),.

December 5, 2012 at 08:32

American weapons were battle tested over and over again. So, u should buy it. 
Why couldn't they win the WARs outright since WW2, despite overwhelming advantages in killing fire power over 'inferior' opponents?

December 5, 2012 at 04:57

Computer simulations done by the U.S. air force for the Pentagon have credited the F-22 with a kill ratio of 10 to 1 against the Su-35 and 30 to 1 against the baseline Su-27. The F-22's motto is "first look, first shot, first kill". The Su-35 is totally naked when in the company of the F-22. In short, the Su-35 is nothing but a humbug. That's not to say the F-22 is extremely perfect. It is designed to quickly wrest air superiority in the first few days of combat. If an adversary is able to struggle on and combat stretches into weeks and months the F-22 loses effectiveness at influencing the outcome. A smart adversary will always harness his resources to nullify the F-22's advantage in this manner. As for the Su-35 it is fit for the scrap bin right from day one.

December 4, 2012 at 13:33

John Chan: I think you have descended from an intelligent commenter to a propaganda machine. Please don't tell the world that China is giving away charity money to help the Russians. Even the ordinary Chinese would find it impossible to swallow. Btw, there is nothing shameful admitting that China-made weapon is not of the same quality as Russian or Western-made. 

John Chan
December 4, 2012 at 09:52

Both Cadillac ATS and CTS come with 6 cylinder engine only, since Cadillac is the symbol of American high time, is the downsizing of Cadillac engine synonymize to the American decline, macho no more?

December 4, 2012 at 08:08

Su-35 is a FLYING PIG. Why ? In any aerial clash between a Su-35 and a Raptor this single-seat Sukhoi will become bacon-and-eggs breakfast for the Raptor. Don't ever readily put down others' comments if you do NOT know the truth. The Raptor (despite its much publicised problems) still has no peer in the world right now. Smaller agile fighters like the Rafale, Typhoon, Gripen NG & even the J-10B when used in sustained numbers stand a better chance against the Raptor compared to the Su-35 the FLYING PIG of the 21st century..

December 4, 2012 at 00:16

Stop your dreamings boy.
Su-35 is the most capable tactical fighter right after F-22: APAR unit, battle network system (developed from old system used in MiG-31), etc. Modelings show two Su-35 will most likely shot F-22 down being more than 4 times less in cost each in production and about 7 times less in cost in service. With chinese human resources this thing, not the overpriced unreliable F-22 or outdated F-15, will own the skyies in hypothetical WW3.

December 4, 2012 at 00:03

Su-35 uses AFAR unit, chinese doesn't have this tech right now.

Share your thoughts

Your Name
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief