China Accepts Last Batch of Su-35s, Test Fires S-400

 - December 27, 2018, 11:41 AM
This Sukhoi Su-35 is the 100th "Flanker-E" aircraft to be delivered to the Russian air and space forces. (photo: UAC/Sukhoi)

Russia has completed shipments to China of 24 Sukhoi Su-35S heavyweight single-seat multi-role fighters under a $2.5 billion contract that was finalized in November 2015. According to local media, the final batch was delivered to China in November and was accepted the following month. However, Russia will continue to ship additional equipment that was covered by the contract—including air-launched weapons—through to 2020.

An initial batch of four Su-35S aircraft was delivered in December 2016. The following year, the customer accepted 10 aircraft in two batches of five. The type officially entered service with the PLAAF (People’s Liberation Army Air Force) in April 2018. This year deliveries took place in June and November, each time of five aircraft.

The Su-35S aircraft joined the PLAAF’s 6th Aviation Brigade based at the Suji air force base in Guangdong province, in China’s southeast. This unit previously operated Su-27SK single-seat interceptors. Reportedly, the customer decided to keep the original Cyrillic symbols on the LCD screens of the Su-35S cockpit instead of using English language or Chinese hieroglyphs so as to maintain the integrity of the pilot’s information field.

Earlier this month, China’s Central Television (CCTV) released a TV report from Suji, depicting the aircraft and personnel. The pilots appeared wearing Russian-made ZSh series “protection helmets,” while aircraft carried a mix of Russian and Chinese air-launched munitions. Free-fall bombs and unguided rockets are of Chinese origin. In the video, the aircraft appeared with a pair of electronic warfare (EW) pods on the wingtips in the shape of the L-265 Khibiny-M self-protection suite from the Moscow-based KRET corporation.

China is the first overseas customer for the type and the second operator after the Russian Air and Space Force (VKS). The latter ordered an initial batch of 48 Su-35S fighters in 2009 and added a follow-on contract for 50 in December 2015. Deliveries are due for completion in 2020. On December 11, Sukhoi’s patron United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) issued a press release noting acceptance by the Russian defense ministry of the 100th Su-35S to be assembled at the plant in Komsomolsk-upon-Amur.

Indonesia signed a $1.1 billion order for 11 such aircraft, but implementation of that deal remains in jeopardy because of the U.S. opposition. The White House has threatened Jakarta with sanctions under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Earlier this year, Washington issued a list of Chinese officials that came under CAATSA sanctions for their participation in arranging the Su-35 and S-400 deals with Russia.

Meanwhile, China has conducted test-firings of its recently acquired Almaz-Antey S-400 Triumph (SA-21 “Growler”) surface-to-air missile. Two batteries were delivered under a contract signed in November 2014, with the first batch delivered in January 2018. In one of the tests, carried out in early December, a Fakel 48N6E missile destroyed a ballistic target approaching at a speed of 3 kilometers per second at a distance close to the system’s maximum advertised firing range of 250km.