More Sukhoi Fighters for China, Indonesia

 - February 22, 2013, 12:20 PM
China will receive an unspecified number of Sukhoi Su-35 fighters from the Russian production line. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Top Russian officials have confirmed sales deals with China for the Sukhoi Su-35 and with Indonesia on an additional quantity of Su-30MK2 multirole fighters.

Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputy director at Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, told journalists attending the IDEX 2013 exhibition in Abu Dhabi that Russian defense minister Sergei Choigu signed an intergovernmental agreement on the Su-35 with China in January. Dzirkaln, who headed the Russian delegation to the arms show, added that the work on firm contract is ongoing “in a planned manner” as the sides are “detailing” delivery terms. “There will be direct shipments only, not license production,” he clarified.

Furthermore, a member in the Russian delegation told journalists that the delay with the Su-35 deal was due in part to the reshuffle at the top of the Chinese military command following the 18th Communist Party Council in November. He suggested that the promotion of ex-PLAAF commander (2007-2012) Xu Quiliang to the Central Military Commission (CMC) was a decisive move in support of the air force’s wish-list and subsequent allocation of hard currency for it. China last purchased fighters from Russia in 2004, adding 24 Su-30MK2s to bring the grand total of Flanker-series aircraft to 283.

Earlier this month, another top Russian official confirmed that Indonesia is placing a firm order for six more Sukhoi Su-30MK2 two-seaters. Anatoly Isaikin, director general at weapon-sales agency Rosoboronexport, told the media that the deal also includes an unspecified number of Saturn AL31F engines and other equipment. The Indonesian air force already operates five Su-27SK /SKM single-seat and five Su-30MKK/MK2 twin-seat fighters.

Indonesia has been negotiating for additional Sukhoi jets since at least 2010. At that time, the country’s then-defense minister voiced Jakarta’s ultimate intent to form 10 Sukhoi fighter squadrons comprising 180 aircraft within the next 15 to 20 years. Although in late 2011 the negotiators came to terms on the main parameters of the deal–$470 million for six airplanes–the talks were prolonged over spare engines, maintenance tools and munitions.

Then, after a Sukhoi Superjet on a sales-promotion tour collided with Mount Salak on May 9, 2012, reports in the Indonesian media suggested that the country’s defense ministry was reconsidering the option of taking more Lockheed Martin F-16As instead of the Russian fighters.

Indonesian officials had previously indicated several times that they viewed pre-owned F-16s as an alternative to the longer-term investment in the Su-30MK2s. To facilitate further sales to Jakarta, the Kremlin-controlled VEB bank provided a seven-year export credit to the Indonesian finance ministry worth $399.5 million for the purchase of aviation equipment.