A senior executive from Rosoboronexport, the Russian state export corporation, said that Russia in 2014 would sign a contract for the delivery of modern Su-35 aircraft to China, thereby confirming that by the end of 2013, the deal could not be finalized. This is hardly the last word on this issue, since negotiations have been dragging on since 2010, and we have heard premature and contradictory statements on this subject before. But this clearly indicates the interest of Russia in such supplies. So far, China’s interest in the fighter of a new generation should be studied because it can tell about the progress of Chinese military technology itself and the strategy for resolving territorial disputes in the South China Sea. If the deal goes through, it can have the most direct impact on these disputes. Strengthening the power of the PRC in a hypothetical conflict, the Su-35 with its range and fuel capacity will allow the Air Force of the People’s Liberation Army of China to conduct long-term patrols in disputed areas, as they did to put pressure on Japan over the dispute over the Senkaku / Diaoyutai islands.
Su-35 - this is not the first machine Sukhoi, causing interest among the Chinese military. As already reported on the pages of The Diplomat, the PRC military strongly praises Su-30MKK and its Chinese version J-16, stating that this machine will allow them to project their power in the South China Sea region.
In June of this year, reports appeared in the Chinese and Russian media indicating that an agreement was reached on the purchase of the Su-35 multi-role fighters, however, no one considered these messages as official, because quite contradictory articles were published in both Chinese and Russian media for a whole year. materials. Once, Russian sources said that the transaction took place, but the Chinese Ministry of Defense categorically denied this statement. However, in January, the two countries created the prerequisites for the supply of these aircraft, having reached an agreement in principle that Russia will sell the Su-35 to China.
There remains a very important question about how many aircraft China will buy. The Chinese newspaper Global Times reported this summer that a group of PRC representatives visited Moscow to assess the Su-35, and that Beijing would start purchasing these advanced vehicles "in significant quantities." Does this mean that China will acquire more 48 aircraft, which the press wrote about a year ago? This is unclear. There is evidence that negotiations are continuing, and this indicates a strong desire of the Chinese military to buy Sukhoi fighters.
Chinese aviation to this day is largely dependent on Russia. The attention of the media is focused on domestic Chinese programs and the development of stealth fighter-bombers and helicopters. Improving the combat potential of Chinese aviation has become a widespread topic, and every month there are new messages about its programs. Production and design capabilities within such aviation projects have received significant development, but if you look “under the hood”, then we often see Russian engines there. China continues to copy and steal Russian propulsion technology, because it really wants to create engines on its own. In fact, the purchase of the Su-35 does not represent a change in the preferences of the Chinese military command. The acquisition of the Su-35 indicates the very delicate situation in which China today has become a major buyer and manufacturer weapons Russian mostly samples. Self-reliance has always been very important to Beijing, but it has been surpassed by the strategic need for the rapid acquisition of the most advanced weapons systems. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in 1991, China began to buy Su-27 long-range fighter jets (this is an older sister model of Su-35).
For obvious reasons, Russia was unhappy when its main export product was launched in China under the name J-11 without a license agreement. Russian media previously reported that Moscow decided not to sell this car, fearing that China would copy it and start exporting itself, weakening the position of the very important economic sector for Russia. It seems that now Russia is trying to find a balance between its fear of Chinese copying and its desire (or need) to sell weapons.
The Su-35 procurement analysis from the point of view of Chinese strategic needs and through the prism of events such as recent territorial disputes and squabbles with neighbors gives a clear understanding of why China is seeking to buy Su aircraft.
Simply put, the Su-35 is today the best fighter in the world without stealth characteristics. In the West, stealth has become a leading feature of aircraft design, but other factors are more important for Chinese needs. What is even more unexpected - an indicator such as superiority in aerial combat is not a key commercial advantage of the Su-35. This machine provides Chinese military advantages over the F-15 and other aircraft in service with neighboring Japan. However, this modern Russian machine does not give China any new, special opportunities in conflict zones, say, in the skies over the Taiwan Strait. There or near Japan - near the Senkaku / Diaoyutai Islands - you can actively use interceptors and multi-purpose fighters such as J-10. No, the advantage of the Su-35 - rather in its speed and capacity of fuel tanks. Like the Su-27, the Su-35 was created to patrol the vast airspace of Russia and to counter threats arising far from densely populated urban centers. The PLA Air Force faces similar challenges.
One of these problems is the South China Sea. Its vast waters of a million square kilometers in 2,25, the Chinese claims, which are reflected in the famous “nine-dotted line”, present serious difficulties for the PLA fighters. Currently, ground-based Chinese naval fighter aircraft may perform limited patrols in the southern regions of this sea, but their fuel supply seriously limits the time for such patrols. In order to ensure the fulfillment of its requirements and claims from the land during the moments of crisis, China needs airplanes with such speed and radius of action that Su-35 has. Perhaps this machine is precisely designed to ensure the territorial claims of the PRC: to restrain the remaining applicants, as well as to create an additional echelon of defense in the event of an escalation of tension. And here is the most important fuel.
One important advantage of the Su-35 over the Su-27 / J-11B is that it can fly with outboard fuel tanks. The lack of such tanks at the Su-27 seriously limits its capabilities, since it cannot carry out refueling in the air. And Su-35 can, and this is another important factor for the Chinese strategy to increase the time spent in the combat mission area and flight range. This time is considered separately from the time of approaching the target and the time of returning to the airfield. In general, there are three ways to increase this wait time. Small and less high-speed aircraft, such as the American Predator and other drones, can continuously be in the air for hours, because they have longer wings and less weight due to the absence of the pilot. Two more ways are to increase the capacity of the fuel tanks and refuel. China began to implement an air refueling program, but it has not yet fully proved itself and is currently not designed for naval aviation. Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles predicts that this program will take effect from 2015 to 2020.
Su-35, even with internal tanks only, has significant advantages compared to Su-27, which can carry out only quick overflights of hot spots, such as Reed Beach and Scarborough Reef. The extra time that this machine can spend in the air is very important, as China intends to resist the actions of the Philippines and other regional players. A machine with such a long range will be able to carry out a “flag demonstration” for much longer, and will also quickly intercept Philippine aircraft in these areas. Su-35 surpasses all Philippine and Vietnamese airplanes (and surface ships, for that matter), which makes their territorial claims inappropriate.
It is this “fait accompli” situation that the PRC seeks to create, displacing Filipinos from Scarborough’s reef and flying over disputed areas in the East China Sea. Beijing wants to create an overwhelming Chinese presence in the areas of its territorial claims, leaving the opponent only two options: increase tensions and lose in case of hostilities, or agree to the constant presence of the Chinese military. Having the opportunity to make long flights over a significant part of the South China Sea, the PLA Air Force will most likely activate air patrols. This could lead to more frequent clashes in various places, create more opportunities for minor crisis situations and allow China to create new “facts on the ground” to then begin negotiations on a peaceful settlement. This potential, combined with the already considerable forces of ballistic missiles and other weapons of “prohibiting access”, provides Beijing with important trumps and acts as a deterrent to hostilities. China is able to project its military power over a significant part of the territory of Southeast Asia and over most of the ASEAN countries.
An aircraft with a longer range is not only a deterrent, capable of staying longer in the combat mission zone. Areas such as Hainan are more vulnerable to attacks by cruise missiles and carrier-based forces than those located behind a bristling palisade of Chinese air defense. Because of the dense radar coverage zone, shorter-range interceptor aircraft and powerful anti-aircraft missile systems, it is tempting to deploy airplanes in mainland China. However, Su-35, having a greater range, can without special difficulties fly from the inland areas to many places in the South China Sea.
Su-35 ground-based and long-range patrol airplanes are one of the best ways for China to maintain its ability to prohibit other countries from accessing these areas. This task is becoming even more urgent now that the United States has announced plans to send F-35 aircraft to the region, which are likely to be stationed at important bases in Korea and Japan.
In the United States and its allies, there may be a discrepancy in capabilities between the aging aircraft and the F-35 sent there. But China is rapidly removing from service old models of equipment, upgrading more modern systems and trying to acquire newer aircraft. Su-35 is an important step in this direction.
Su-35 can not act on equal terms with the American F-22. However, the number of these machines is insignificant, and the risk of their use is small, in connection with which Su-35 for some time will surpass any aircraft in the region. And although the Su-35 has much more maneuverability than the Su-27, the presence of similarities between the Su-35 and earlier Sukhoi machines means minimizing the efforts on the rear support system and retraining of the pilots. This, in turn, increases the state of fitness for use and combat use. It is unclear exactly where the Su-35 will be used - in the PLA Air Force or in naval aviation. But if they are stationed at the Suixi airbase in Guangdong, joining the 2 division with headquarters in Zhanjiang (military unit 95357), these vehicles will complement the Su-27 aircraft already based there. Another profitable option is a naval aviation base in Lingshui, Hainan Province (it is known for having an American aircraft EP-2001 reconnaissance aircraft made an emergency landing there in 3. Su-35 can replace J-based and rapidly aging aircraft based there. -8B.
The technologies used in the creation of the Su-35 will benefit Chinese aviation, but an even greater benefit is that they will carry out deterrence and deterrence tasks in the South China Sea. The forces of China currently deployed there are capable of causing significant damage to a potential adversary, such as the Philippines, without it. This country cannot effectively resist the territorial claims of the PRC without possessing combat-ready Air Force and Navy, which mainly include former US Coast Guard boats built in 1960. Since Sukhoi airplanes have a greater range of fuel and are able to carry out refueling in the air, they will be able to stay longer on combat patrols and intercept, acting within the framework of ensuring territorial requirements. And if you look into the future, the combination of the Su-35, which is in service with smaller Chinese fighter jets, modern anti-aircraft missile systems, ballistic and long-range cruise missiles, will create a powerful, in-depth defense system to defend Chinese claims the hunt to intervene in case of a conflict between China and its neighbors.