Why China Is In Love with Buying Russia's Killer Su-35 Fighter Jet

Michael Peck

Michael Peck

Security,

Russia is offering to sell more Su-35 fighters to Beijing – and Chinese media reports that Beijing may accept.

Why China Is In Love with Buying Russia's Killer Su-35 Fighter Jet

For now, it may indeed make sense for China to buy fighters from Russia: the two nations, which once fought a border war and vied for supremacy in the Communist bloc, now enjoy friendly – but wary – relations. But given its ambitions, at some point China will have to rely on its own resources.

For a nation that boasts of developing an advanced stealth fighter, it seems strange that China would need to buy warplanes from its former rival Russia.

Yet Moscow is offering to sell more Su-35 fighters to Beijing – and Chinese media reports that Beijing may accept.

(This first appeared last month.)

China has already bought 24 Su-35s – an upgraded version of the Cold War Su-27 Flanker – in a 2015 sale worth $2.5 billion, according to Russian news agency TASS. “We are expecting a response from China on our offer to purchase modern weapons and military equipment manufactured in Russia, including additional batches of Su-35 fighter jets," Russia’s arms export agency told TASS last week.

Two days later, a Chinese military television channel reported that China may buy more Su-35s to replace older aircraft. China has about 3,000 aircraft – roughly the size of the U.S. Air Force – including 1,700 fighters. But many are obsolete Cold War planes, including several hundred Chinese copies of Russia’s 1960s-era MiG-21. Thus even as China fields the fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter – ostensibly the counterpart of the American F-22 and F-35 – the People’s Liberation Army Air Force is saddled with the logistical challenges of maintaining a huge fleet of old planes.

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