Russia Nearing Su-35 Fighter Contract With China

An arms sale would signify a fairly significant change in Russia’s attitude toward its southern neighbor.

UPI reports from Moscow that Russia and China are nearing a $4 billion deal that would supply China with Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E fighter jets, with one major caveat remaining:

“The sides have practically agreed on the delivery of 48 Su-35 multirole fighters, worth $4 billion, to China,” a Russian Federation Ministry of Defense source told Kommersant business newspaper.

It is not a done deal however, as the Russian Federation is demanding that China guarantee the protection of copyrights on the production of Su-35s without proper licensing.

This author finds immense humor in a world where nations believe China capable of protecting foreign copyrights and patents and can only imagine the SU-35’s various systems being plied open and analyzed before their new birds are even “out of the box.”

Unfortunately, it may behoove Russia to bring this Su-35 deal to fruition, regardless of the ripe potential for technology theft.

Russia and China are making motions to cozy up as allies as the United States turns its attention back toward the Pacific. Providing China with a fighter that;s generally considered superior to the Americans’ F-35 is a massive counter against East Asian nations currently considering purchases of Lockheed Martin F-35s for their countries. This deal would cause quite a sudden uptick in Chinese airpower against its regional neighbors.

And that’s without even factoring in the probability of Su-35 technology being co-opted into Chinese aircraft designs.

As a final note, China has been wanting Su-35s from Russia since the first sign that Russia was ever willing sell them (early 1990s). Things have never properly coalesced. A win by China here would signify a fairly significant change in Russia’s attitude toward its southern neighbor.

This story first appeared at Asia Security Watch, March 6, 2012.