Why did China change its attitude and turn away from the Russian Su-35 fighter?

As one of the most advanced aircraft models in the world, the Russian Su-35 is still struggling to find customers in the export market, especially when even China is no longer interested in this fighter.

Since entering service at the beginning of 2014, Russia has actively marketed the Su-35 fighter for export, of which China and Egypt both ordered 24 aircraft in 2015 and 2018. But now for future of Su-35 fighter sales have been called into question, mainly due to competition from other Russian heavy fighters such as the Su-30SM/SM2 and Su-57.

China was considered a likely customer to buy more Su-35 fighter jets, which, was likely to create a big boost for Russia’s military aviation industry. The planes were sold under previous contracts for about $2.5 billion per unit of 24, including training, spare parts, armament and delivery costs, making the Su-35 the ready-to-go machine. most expensive Russian fighter ever exported.

On September 4, 2021, the Director of the Service of Military-Technical Cooperation of the Russian Federation Dmitry Shugaev informed the press at the 2021 Eastern Economic Forum that the country is ready for agreements to export new Su-35 heavy fighter to China.

Although China was the first customer of the Su-35 and for many years was also the only foreign customer of this aircraft, it seems that China no longer shows any significant interest, due to domestic production of aircraft has met the demand.

Mr. Shugaev admitted: “So far, there have been no new orders from China for the purchase of additional batches of Su-35 multi-role fighter jets. At the same time, Russia is ready to further cooperate with the Chinese side on the topic. China showed its interest in the Su-35 in the early 2010s, mainly due to its ability to transfer technology related to the plane’s three-dimensional thrust vectoring engines.

China then quickly adopted thrust vectoring technology on its aircraft models and most notably the J-10C fighter, which greatly improved the aircraft’s maneuverability.

The Su-35 is an advanced 4++ generation fighter of the version of the Su-27 Flanker heavy fighter from the Soviet era and China has also developed its own modern versions based on the design of the domestic Su-27 Flanker, superior to the Su-35 in many respects.

The latest Flanker variants developed in China such as the J-16 benefit from a stealth coating, equipped with an AESA radar and air-to-air missile guidance radar, features that the Su- 35 is missing.

China has a much larger defense and R&D budget than Russia, and is also a dynamic industrial and economic country. The country has important locomotives in a number of areas, most notably electronics helping to create the world’s most capable electronic systems.

However, the Chinese J-16 is generally still sold at a much higher price than the Russian Su-35. Even if the defense sectors of China and Russia are equally effective, the Su-35 will be less expensive to export, and will be a more effective choice than rivals like the J-16.

Russia offers the Su-35 fighter jet a new technology transfer agreement with China, possibly involving a new type of air-launched missile that the country can deploy, then there is a possibility. China will show more interest in buying Su-35.

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