Surprise! That China Su-35 deal is on hold

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I was amused to read the Ria Novosti report that the China SukhoiSu-35 deal is in trouble. Apparently the Russians want to sell China a large numberof aircraft, while China would prefer just a handful. And so an impasse ensues.

We have been promoting the Su-35fighter on the Chinese market,” Rosoboronexport deputy chief ViktorKomardin is reported as saying.  ”However,China only wants to buy a limited number [of aircraft] whereas we want [tosell] a large consignment to make [the deal] economically viable.”

In this instance, how does onedefine ‘economically viable’? The cynical part of me suggests that China wantsto buy a handful (hints of Su-33?) and then reverseengineer the aircraft, eventually producing a Chinese clone, a follow onfighter to the J-11. This is economically viable for China, but not exactlyideal for Russia.

On the other hand, Russia wouldgreatly benefit from a big Su-35 production run for China, lowering the costper unit across the board.

Though China appears to have dugits heels in, I will be very curious to see how this proposed sale movesforward. If Beijing feels confident enough in its indigenous capabilities,perhaps it will indeed give the Su-35 a miss.

Otherwise, perhaps Beijing willback off a bit, wait a sufficiently face-saving amount of time, and then eventuallyagree to buy a larger number of Su-35s with a significant portion produced inRussia.  In this case it would get theaircraft and technology transfer it needs, but at a substantially higher price.

It is worth remembering that in2010, before Beijing surprised everyone with the appearance of the supposedly ‘FifthGeneration’ J-20, an alleged Chinese spy was caught smuggling parts for theMiG-29 and Su-27 across the Russo-Chinese border.  Another similar heist wasattempted in 2009 at the same checkpoint.

Such incidents would appear tosuggest that China would be very interested indeed in the secrets of the Su-35. 

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One Response to Surprise! That China Su-35 deal is on hold

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