Will China reverse engineer its Russian fighters? – Wendell Minnick

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Wendell Minnick

Wendell Minnick

China closed a US$2 billion deal with Russia to purchase 24 Su-35 fighters. Question, looking at the rather small amount, according to defense analyst Wendell Minnick in Defense News: will China reverse engineer the planes, like it did before.

Wendell Minnick:

There are fears China’s decision to procure only 24 fighters indicates an intention to reverse engineer and copy the fighter, as it did with the Su-27SK. In 1995, China secured a $2.5 billion production license deal from Russia to build 200 Su-27SKs, dubbed the J-11A. In 2006, Russia killed the contract after 95 aircraft when it discovered China had reverse engineered the aircraft and was covertly manufacturing an indigenous variant, the J-11B, with Chinese-built avionics and weapons.

There are also fears China will want the Su-35’s sophisticated engine, the Saturn AL-117S, for its J-20 stealth fighter. The engine is also outfitted on Russia’s T-50 stealth fighter.

“I assume the reason why they are buying 24 … is to get hold of some of the embedded technologies,” said Roger Cliff, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. “The basic airframe of the Su-35 isn’t much changed from the Su-27 and Su-30, which China already has, so presumably they are going after other things such as thrust-vectoring, the Su-35’s passive electronically scanned array radar, or its infrared search-and-track system.”

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