Initial indications that Russia could sell China the Su-35 - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 23 November 2010

Initial indications that Russia could sell China the Su-35

In the context of the Broadsword discussion on the F-35, I am posting a couple of articles that indicate that China is heading towards Gen-5 too. With the Russian Su-35 in their hands, the normal Chinese process of taking forward that technology will begin.

The article below is courtesy

Russia ready to sell Su-35 fighter jets to China 

09:18 GMT, November 17, 2010 HUHAI (China) | According to RIA Novosti, Russia's state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport said on Tuesday it was ready to hold talks with China on the delivery of advanced Su-35 fighter aircraft to the Chinese air force.

"We are ready to work with our Chinese partners to this end [Su-35 deliveries]," Deputy General Director of Rosoboronexport Alexander Mikheyev said at the Airshow China 2010, which is being held on November 16-21 in Zhuhai.

The Su-35 Flanker-E, powered by two 117S engines with thrust vectoring, combines high maneuverability and the capability to effectively engage several air targets simultaneously using both guided and unguided missiles and weapon systems.

Russia's Sukhoi aircraft maker earlier said it planned to start deliveries of the new aircraft, billed as "4++ generation using fifth-generation technology," to foreign clients in 2011 and produce Su-35s over a period of 10 years up to 2020.

China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition (Airshow China) is the only international aerospace trade show in China that is endorsed by the Chinese central government. The biannual arms exhibition has been held in Zhuhai since 1996. (RIA Novosti)


And the article below this is courtesy the Early Warning Blog:

Sale Of Russian Fighters To China Undermines Gates Decision On F-22

17:07 GMT, November 22, 2010 Defense publications are reporting that Russia is considering selling its newest fighter, the SU-35, to China. The SU-35 has enhanced radar, improved avionics, better flight surfaces, a more powerful engine and larger fuel tanks. Aviation experts characterize the SU-35 as a Generation 4+ aircraft. This is just a short technological step behind the U.S. F-35, the future mainstay of the U.S. fighter fleet.

China’s Air Force is in the midst of a major modernization program that is focused in particular on improving its ability to defend against air and ballistic/cruise missile threats. China has acquired advanced air superiority and strike aircraft from Russia while simultaneously focusing on domestic production of ever-better aircraft. From Russia, the Chinese Air Force has purchased some 100 variants of the advanced SU-30 and 76 SU-27s, both fourth generation fighters. China has deployed more than 300 J-10, 11 and 17s, all fourth generation fighters. In addition, the Chinese Air Force has some 500 third generation J-7 and 8s in service. In addition to China’s nearly 1000 third and fourth generation fighters, the Air Force also deploys some 700 third and fourth generation strike aircraft. There are reports that China is helping to finance Russian work on a fifth-generation fighter, the T-50. Like the U.S. fifth generation F-22 and F-35, the T-50 is reported to incorporate stealth features.

The potential SU-35 sale is but one element in a broad and deep effort by the Chinese Air Force to modernize its air defense capabilities. The recently released Annual Report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission provided an ominous picture of the growing Chinese air and missile defense threat. "Today many, but not all, of China's fighters can fire beyond-visual-range missiles." The report goes on to warn about the growth of China’s air defense capabilities. China now has "one of the world's best ground-based air defense networks” and, “would pose a difficult challenge for even the most modern air forces in the region.” China has deployed around 100 surface-to-air (SAM) missile batteries with nearly 1,000 missile launchers, including between 16 and 32 batteries of Russian-built S-300s, the so-called triple-digit SAM that Russia recently refused to sell to Iran.

When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates decided in 2009 to cap the U.S. F-22 program at 187 aircraft it was with the expectation that China would be relatively slow to deploy advanced fourth-generation fighters and that Russia would not produce a fifth-generation aircraft for many years to come. The pace of the Chinese aircraft modernization program and the first flight of the T-50 earlier this year would appear to undermine Gates’ logic for halting the F-22 program. Within a decade, the small fleet of U.S. F-22s could face hundreds of advanced Chinese fourth and even fifth-generation fighters.

China’s aircraft modernization program should also cast a different light on the F-35 program. Recent calls by deficit reduction groups for reducing the size and scope of the F-35 program need to recognize the intolerable pressure this would place on the F-22 fleet. Had Secretary Gates decided to go with the Air Force’s proposal to acquire some 332 F-22s the situation today would be very different. Without an adequate F-22 fleet, the F-35 became the defense department’s most important modernization program



  1. My impressions from the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition, which was held in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, last week:
    1) The Chinese do not refer to the JF-17 Thunder and J-10A/B Soaring Dragon as 4th-generation MRCA. According to AVIC Defense and CATIC China's first 4th-generation MRCA is presently being developed and this will be likely known as the Jian J-14. It will be a single-seat, twin-engined J-10 with twin canted vertical stabilisers, and powered by two AL-31FN turbofans. It will have panoramic AMLCDs in the cockpit of the type displayed at Zhuhai both in 2008 and this time as well.
    2) The 5th-generation MRCA is being developed in parallel to the J-14 and this will likely be designated as the Jian J-20. Chengdu Aircraft Co is leading the R & D effort for both the J-14 and J-20.
    3) Consequently, both the existing J-10A/B and JF-17 cannot be compared to the F-16 Block 52/60. Both in terms of performance and reliability, the J-10 and JF-17 are still years behind the F-16 Block 52/60.
    4) Therefore, for the Pakistan Air Force's requirement, the CAC is now developing the FC-20, which will incorporate on board some of the technologies already developed by China for the J-14 programme. But have no doubts about the FC-20's future service induction. Both the FC-20 and the JF-17 will be hard-wired to work in conjunction with the PAF-specific ZDK-03 AEW & C platforms.

  2. the T-50 (aka PAK-FA) up for sale to China?

    If it is being developed with India money, I hope there is a clause someplace that says India will have a say in deciding export customers.

  3. Frankly speaking we need to look only to maintain a credible balance vis a vis China as the chances of a hot conflict erupting are meagre if any, economics dictates that today. India and China may growl at each other but it wont come to exchanging blows
    S300's may not be as advanced (given there S400 and S500 with increased ranges and better radars) but India yet has to get rid of pechoras if we go by your last article, maybe that should be the priority, defensive preparations!!! Lastly I dont know what Indian strategy is on having a JV and indigenous 5th gen prog(even USA has 1 5th gen programme at a time) but I guess rather than try to get a 3rd 5th gen craft we better try to assimilate tech from the assured proj(FGFA) into the indigenous one(AMCA). Is that fair? (not that I am an expert, just my two cents worth)

  4. Further I feel India must invest heavily into space technologies, further the leaps she already has taken in that arena into a trump card. It would be great to see India become the leader in space exploration rather than being a 5th or 6th comer at every stage!

  5. The following 4 thoughts came to my mind on reading this article,

    1. Russians are selling 5th-gen to China & India. Same thing with Americans selling to others. Indians are "financing" Russians to develop the PAK-FA (5th-gen) fighter. That means, Russians and Americans must be working on 6th-gen.
    2. There is no doubt, China and Pakistan will continue to pose territorial threat to India. Under such situation, are we content in maintaining a "Minimum credible deterrence" posture, given the double whammy?
    3. Are India's so-called premier institutes of research and technology really geared to conduct futuristic research or are the kids there being raised to cater to "Global workforce". I don't see any India based Indian performing cutting edge research or making any new scientific discoveries.
    4. Does making research require Govt backing or license? Or is the environment not conducive/favorable for futuristic research in India?

    somehow I feel Indians do not take themselves seriously, the "Chalta hai" attitude pervades everywhere in our public culture and hence we time and again seek divine blessings and super weapons from our Gods "Russia" and "America".

  6. Nice info. Russian give them a chance to strip down & copy and at the same time, cry out (not so loudly) that China is stealing IPs

  7. Hi Prasun,

    The chinese indeed place the JF-17, J10, SU27/30, F16, EF, F18, all as 3rd Gen. F35/F22 are 4th gen for them. Their numbering system is one below the western system. This has caused a lot of confusion everywhere.

  8. Ajai sir,

    Could you get the reactions from our Mod or armed forces ?

    Even though the blog states that china is funding the t-50 do u think its possible?

    Will the su30mki be able to hold on its own & defeat the su35?

    Couldn't you influence the MoD through Broadsword to allow other private players to produce su30mki since HAL produces it at a dismal rate of about 11 per year and there is a backlog of 200+?

  9. The problems for India may be multiplied manifolds when China helps Papistan to produce Su-35 indigenously within Pakistan.

    I think this news may be a trap so that instead of the proper MMRCA, the India shall be made to purchase the Su-35 or the equivalent EFT.

  10. The Russians probably are offering su-35, so that china may drop j-11 since its a copy of su-27 and go for new aircraft. Just like we are being offered gripen Ng instead of gripen c/d so that we don't go for tejas mk-1.
    The engine 117s has been explicitly mentioned, thus it may be that the engine developer of pakfa is short on funds and expects an economically viable order of 300 to set up production lines for the first batch of pak fa. I personally feel the Russians coming up with a 175 kn engine for fgfa by 2020 is a joke and a poor one at that. Russians and Europeons have thrown their defence industries to the wolves of the market. They provide only tactic support in foreign procurements. Mmrca, Fgfa will get more costly as we demand more, since any development cost would be fed back into unit costs.
    once awareness develops in general public about squandering foreign exchange in defence purchases, politicians would have to answer and lavish programmes are going to be cut.our 5th generation fleet is going to have to bet on ada AMCA and numbers will depend on Lca mk-2. IAF is so getting ripped off in Mmrca and Fgfa.

  11. The Russians may OFFER the Su-35 to China, but it makes no difference to us. The Chinese aviation industry is sufficiently advanced that they no longer need to import Russian planes, only components. It would be far more beneficial for them to just upgrade the J-10/11 designs(which they're already doing) than to buy another new Russian plane.

    Any new advancements like engines, radar and electronic warfare systems can just be imported directly from Russia/Ukraine and integrated.


  13. First of all this whole 5th gen 4th gen thing is just bull#@!$.
    Second, we are running huge deficits here in the US, and I dont think spending 25% of our federal budget on defence is the right priority.
    The problem with the F-35 is that it is optimized to be versatile, not to be really exceptional at a specific role. This is ok , but it depends on what you use it for, if you have a second fighter to do your air superiority stuff etc.
    For example, the US has some F-22s and more than enough F-15s. So really the F-35 will do the rest.
    In India's case, there will be more than enough Su-30s and FGFA/MRCA. So getting F-35s for the attack role would be more than prudent.

    I mentioned the older fighters , and the f-18 is one of the best in the world now, in terms of multirole capability ( not as good as eurofighter in air superiority, or as good as f-35 in ground attack) but it does the job.
    The thing is, stealth and so called 5th gen tech is easy to defeat, as in the countermeasures are much cheaper and more effective than technology itself.
    So why spend too much resources on it?
    Stealth succeeded in Iraq, because quite frankly, their military was pathetic.
    But dont forget , the Serbs shot down an F-117 over Kosovo.
    Anyway, over all of that, if we can find a way to reduce poverty in America, and to improve infrastructure in India, it would be more constructive.

  14. Unfortunately JF-17 has been inferior to some vintage aircrafts like Mig-23 or some variants of Mig-21 except for the payloads. Otherwise as humbly suggested by Navaj Sharif, they could have considered purchasing a few of them at throw away prices. Lol...

  15. we shouldnt be too worried as su-30 mki already has most tech specs similar to su-35.. plus i guess lets give it to the chinese who are great at reverse engineering as was proved by their ability to galvanise their entire aviation industry with just one sale of su-27s by russia....


  17. Mr. Ra - And who is this Navaj Sharif?

    The JF 17 is definitely not inferior to the Mig 21 or 23. Aiyyo, this sad.

  18. By the time China would be fielding Su-35BM, India will be fielding PAK-FA and thats crucial so no need to panic. Timeline matters.

    Best regards.


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