China to Receive 4 Su-35 Fighter Jets From Russia in 2016

Su-35. Image Credit: Alex Beltyukov/wikimedia commons

Su-35. Image Credit: Alex Beltyukov/wikimedia commons

A Sino-Russian contract for 24 Su-35 combat aircraft was signed in November 2015.

By Franz-Stefan Gady September 17, 2016

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Air Force (PLAAF) is slated to receive the first four out of 24 Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 multirole fighter jets, the governor of Khabarovsk Krai, a federal subject located in the Russian Far East, said in a speech during the opening of a new aircraft production plan on September 15, according to local media reports.

From 2016 to 2018 the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production plant will deliver 24 Su-35 combat aircraft to China, the governor said. China first showed interest in one of Russia’s most modern combat aircraft in 2008. Negotiations over the Su-35 deal began in 2011. A preliminary agreement was reached in 2012 with a final sales contract signed in November 2015.

“The Su-35 (NATO reporting name: Flanker-E) is a Fourth++ generation, twin-engine, highly maneuverable multirole fighter jet powered by two AL-117S turbofan engines. The Russian aircraft’s powerful turbofan engine is also the most likely reason why China is interested in acquiring Su-35 fighters,” I previously explained.

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.

“The most advanced Chinese-made military turbofan currently in use is the WS-10, which, however, also underperforms, according to some reports,” I explained elsewhere (See: “Confirmed: China Buys 24 Advanced Fighter Jets From Russia”). Both of the PLAAF’s new fifth-generation fighter jet prototypes–the Chengdu J-20 and Shenyang J-31–are equipped with older Russian-made jet engines, the former with the Saturn AL-31 the latter with the Klimov RD-93.

China’s aviation industry has been pushing hard to domestically develop and build high-performance turbofan engines. In August 2016, Beijing announced that it set up a new state-owned aircraft engine maker to accelerate the development of new jet engines. China, for example, is currently working on the WS-13 Taishan turbofan, a derivative of the Russian Klimov RD-33 turbofan.

Obtaining the Su-35 combat aircraft and its AL-117S turbofan engine would be a major boon for China’s aviation industry given that the engine could be reverse engineered. Next to the powerful engine, the Su-35, with its air refueling capability and its ability to carry external fuel tanks, will provide the PLAAF also with greater control of the skies over China and adjacent waters including the East and South China Seas.

Source: The Diplomat “China to Receive 4 Su-35 Fighter Jets From Russia in 2016”

Note: This is The Diplomat’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


7 Comments on “China to Receive 4 Su-35 Fighter Jets From Russia in 2016”

  1. Fre Okin says:

    The timing is important to discourage the next POTUS from getting too adventurous in the South China Sea. Similarly the Japanese would have to think twice about messing with Chinese Freedom of Navigation in the East China Sea near Diaoyu/Senkaku. China may even send Su 35 to escort P8 Poseidon sniffing near Hainan. Su35 fighter jet being very agile will have a better chance to take on US fighter jets lurking nearby.


    • T-50 says:

      “…. 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….”

      And the lumbering J-20 will remain underpowered for the next few years.


      • Fre Okin says:

        You missed yesterday’s post on this same site? Chinese WS15 engine is superior than the Russian. Good enough to be operational. With further refinement, the operational cost will come down but meanwhile they are superior and functional.

        “The article reveals that the temperature before turbine is 1,474 degree Celsius in WS-15, the highest in the world. No wonder WS-15 is much more powerful than AL-31F. Its reliability lies between Western and Russian ones with a life of 900 hours longer than AL-31F.”


  2. Steve says:

    China need to buy the SU-35 package deal of plane and engine anyway, because the configuration of the Russian 117s turbofan engines are not suitable for the J-20 and J-31.