China Buys Super Flanker, Subs

China will buy 24 Su-35BM Super Flanker fighters from Russia in a deal worth about $1.5 billion, according to press reports. However, there was still conflicting information, as of March 26, whether the Russian government had officially acknowledged the transaction. The deal would reportedly be the first major arms agreement between the two countries in about a decade and would include four Lada-class diesel electric submarines. The two nations reportedly struck the Su-35 deal last November, but they didn’t hash out the details until last week’s state visit to Moscow by China’s new president, Xi Jinping. According to press reports, Russia wanted to sell 48 of the fighters—which represent the apex of development of the Su-27 Flanker series—but China would only buy half that number. Both countries are buying the Su-35 as a bridge until their respective fifth generation stealthy designs reach initial service. The deal was a long time in coming because Russia remains irate that China purchased Su-27s and back-engineered them to produce the J-11 knockoff. Russia remains concerned that China, which needs an engine for its stealthy-looking J-20 fighter, would copy the Su-35’s Saturn 117S powerplant, which also equips Russia’s T-50 stealth fighter. Consequently, China has reportedly agreed to a less-comprehensive technology transfer package. The Lada sub is reportedly a new development of the Kilo class: much quieter and with the ability to remain submerged longer. (See also NPR blog entry, AFP report, BBC report, and Focus Taiwan report.)