The United States has more reasons to be concerned: China is likely to overtake Russia’s position in the global arms market within the next 10 years.
This opinion was expressed in an article for the National Interest by Professor Robert Farley of the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky.
According to the professor, China is likely to overtake Russia’s position in the global arms market within the next 10 years thanks to the sales of the FC-1/JF-17 multirole fighters, which Beijing successfully sells overseas with the help of Pakistan.
Russia is also interested in having military cooperation with Pakistan despite the fact that the two countries are the Cold War-era adversaries. Pakistan, for its part, is actively expanding its nuclear arsenal, which is why Russia is so eager to be pals with the country. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) recently published a report, in which it said Pakistan undertook “extensive and expensive long-term modernization programs.”
Farley also mentioned the fact that China is currently working on its second cutting-edge stealth fighter that goes under the name ‘J-31’, and will be targeting overseas markets.
Even though the Kremlin is making money on supplying its Flankers, which is a member of the Su-30 aircraft family, to interested parties in Southeast Asia, its new developments would no longer be in demand as Russia is working on only one type of fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, the Sukhoi PAK-FA. The Sukhoi PAK-FA is expected to have greater stealth capabilities than its American counterparts.
Russia takes advantage of China’s territorial disputes
However, the future is not so gloomy for Russia. China would not be able to build its own high-end submarines without having to transfer Kilo-class submarines from Russia between the 1990s and 2000s, according to Farley. The professor added that China is now perfectly able to compete with Russia with its submarines.
“Russia still holds the considerable advantage of years of experience in the field, but that gap looks set to close as China delivers more vessels,” said Farley.
The author then shifted his focus to air defense systems. According to the professor, China will certainly surpass Russia in that regard. Russia knows that China has caught up with its air defense technology, which is why it would not help Moscow maintain its advantage if it refused to make a final transfer of its air defense systems. That means that the Kremlin will most likely sell more advanced air defense systems to neighboring with China countries like Vietnam and Malaysia.
In that case, according to Farley, Russia will maintain its advantage in only two military areas – its main battle tanks and cruise missiles. The Russians will certainly refuse to sell its latest cutting-edge tank development to China in order to prevent Beijing from obtaining all the secrets and technology, which the Russian military developers have put into the tank.
It is also interesting that China has been actively strengthening its ties with Russia ever since it found out about Moscow’s plans to develop the Armata tank. Is it a mere coincidence or the Chinese are trying to get the Russians into the corner and leave them no option but to share the technology?
Besides, what also helps the Russians to maintain its leading positions in sales of tanks is the fact that India stopped manufacturing its Arjun main battle tanks.
Russia also benefits greatly from territorial disputes between China and Southeast Asia states, because the latter are constantly looking for advanced heavy military equipment in order to beef up against China.
This fact also promises a bright future for Russia’s cruise missiles developments as arms consumers of Southeast Asia will not buy them from China for obvious reasons. “Russia may profit from a lack of desire to sell missiles to potential enemies of Beijing,” said Farley.
The professor also added that the two countries are going to have a severe competition for the cruise missile markets in Africa and Latin America over the next 10 years.
Russia sold S-400 air defense systems to China
It was confirmed in April that China signed a deal with Russia to buy four divisions of the S-400 air defense systems back in September 2014. Therefore, China became the first buyer of this advanced type of Russian air defense system, which indicated the strengthened strategic relations between the two countries.
Many states, including Southeast Asia states, wish to buy the S-400 from Russia, but the country’s production sector has a priority to first fully supply the Russian Defense Ministry.
Even though the Kremlin is expanding the S-400 air defense systems production capabilities, it is not able to supply it to more than one country at once, which is why China was chosen as the one.
When asked whether the Russian firms are not afraid to cooperate with their Chinese counterparts, the S-400 manufacturing company’s general director Anatoly Isaikin said that if the Russian side is working for China’s interests, then it is also working in its own interests.
The S-400 ‘Triumph’ air defense systems is a multichannel air defense missile system capable of targeting all existing means of offensive aircraft, including warplanes, jets, drones, cruise missiles and tactical ballistic missiles with the maximal speed of up to 16,000 feet per second.
The S-400 was adopted by the Russian Defense Ministry in April 2007. Russia currently has nine air defense missile battalions equipped with this air defense missile system.