Russia has found the first international buyer for its Sukhoi Su-35 multirole fighter jets. On Thursday, state-run Rostec announced that it had signed a deal with China after long negotiations. However, Rostec chief Sergey Chemezov clarified that the agreement doesn’t involve the production of Su-35s in China. Beijing usually wants a certain number military equipment to be manufactured in China as part of its long-term plan to become self-sufficient in defense.
A big boost to Russia’s defense exports
Military experts said the deal could be worth more than $2 billion. It means China will be paying approximately $83 million for each of the 24 Su-35s it is buying. The deal is a huge boost to Russia’s defense exports. It comes at a time when Russian economy is going through a rough patch due to Western sanctions and falling oil prices. Currently, the Russian air force is the primary operator of the aircraft, which was developed as a stopgap until the fifth-generation Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA entered service.
So far, Sukhoi has produced 36 units of Su-35, while more are in the pipeline. Su-35 is a potent long-range 4++ generation fighter. It is capable of carrying 8,000 kg of weapons, including a variety of guided and unguided missiles and bombs. China first expressed interest in the aircraft in 2008, and started negotiations with Moscow in 2011. Russia is currently also in talks with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan for the potential sale of Su-35s.
China looks to maintain superiority
The deal will give the Chinese air force much needed boost amid rising tensions with its neighbors like Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines over territorial disputes. China’s own fighter jets such as J-11 lack advanced capabilities. Separately, Russia is jointly developing a fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) with India that will be based on Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA.
China and Russia were rivals during the Cold War. But they have increasingly strengthened their relationship in recent years to counter the United States. In August, the Chinese and Russian navies held a joint exercise in the Sea of Japan.