The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) took delivery of its first batch of four Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 multirole fighter jets on December 25, according to various media reports. A picture circulating on a Chinese social media website reportedly shows the landing of a Su-35 coated in the blueish gray camouflage pattern of the Russian Air Force.
The news was first reported by Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily News. As of today, the PLAAF has not officially confirmed the delivery of the four fighter aircraft. According to the website Russian Aviation, the aircraft arrived on December 25 at a flight training center of the PLAAF in Cangzhou in Hebei province in northern China.
The PLAAF plans to induct a total of 24 Su-35 fighter aircraft over the next two years with four fighter jets delivered in 2016, ten in 2017 and the remaining ten in 2018. As I reported in earlier (See: “China Will Receive 4 Su-35 Fighter Jets From Russia”), TASS news agency reported on December 14 that the “first four Sukhoi-35 are to fly over to China by December 25,” according to an unnamed Russian defense industry source.
Furthermore I noted:
The first deliveries were initially scheduled for 2017. It is unclear why the delivery schedule has now been sped up. There is also no official statement from the Chinese side confirming the transfer. Furthermore, as of November last month, The National Interest reported that no contract had been formally signed between China and Russia over the Su-35 aircraft.
China’s Global Times reported that it was Russia’s decision to speed up the delivery process. In addition, I explained:
The Su-35 (NATO reporting name: Flanker-E) is a fourth++ generation, twin-engine, multirole fighter aircraft powered by two AL-117S turbofan engines. As I reported elsewhere, China first expressed interest in the Su-35 in 2008 with official negotiations beginning in 2011. A preliminary agreement was reached in 2012 with a sales contract for 24 aircraft reportedly signed in November 2015 (See: “China to Receive 4 Su-35 Fighter Jets From Russia in 2016”)
One of the reasons for China’s interest in the Su-35 is its AL-117S turbofan engine. Russia has repeatedly refused to sell the engine as a stand-alone product, which left the PLAAF with little choice but to acquire the entire aircraft. The Chinese military aviation industry is still struggling with designing and building an engine for its new fifth-generation stealth fighter prototype, the Chengdu J-20.
According to unconfirmed media reports, the new aircraft will be used to prop up China’s military position in the East China and South China Seas.