Paul Lewis/BEIJING

The flow of Russian weapons to China, including new fighters, ships and missiles, is showing signs of slowing in the face of contractual differences and reservations in Moscow about the type and capability of systems sought by Beijing.

Some major new arms purchases for the Chinese air force and navy are being delayed as the two sides try to reach agreement on payment, say sources in Beijing. Russia is increasingly asking for hard-cash payments, while China is expressing disquiet over systems reliability and after-sales support.

At the same time, say Western diplomats, there appears to be an emerging rift between the Russian military and the Rosvooruzheniye arms-export agency over the growing sophistication of weapons being offered to China. Russian officials are voicing concern in particular about the lack of central control over independent deals being struck by suppliers with Beijing.

Senior Chinese officials, including the powerful vice-chairman of the central military commission Gen Liu Huaqing, have recently visited Russian arms-manufacturing centres.

A high priority is securing a deal for the supply of around 55 new Sukhoi Su-30 multi-role fighters for the air force, along with Vympel R-77 (AA-12 Adder) fully active air-to-air missiles and Zezda Strela Kh-31A (AS-17 Krypton) air-launched anti-ship missiles.

Talks have been soured by Chinese efforts to obtain an alternative source of spare parts from Ukraine for 50 Su-27CK/UBKs in service. At least eight fighters were badly damaged by a recent typhoon and two have been lost in separate crashes. The air force also has to address the problem of poor engine reliability and low time between overhaul.

Negotiations between China and Russia over the $800 million sale of two Sovremenny-class guided-missile destroyers have also run aground over payments. Russia insists on scheduled progress payments for the two warships which are armed with Raduga 3M-80 (SS-N-22 Sunburn) surface-to-surface missiles. The Chinese are instead proposing cash on delivery.

Source: Flight International