Yuri Slyusar, chairman of United Aircraft Corp, a civilian and military aircraft manufacturer based in Moscow, said his company is about to sign the final contract with China concerning the sale of Su-35 fighters. Slyusar was speaking to reporters at the Paris Air Show and was cited by American defense analyst Zachary Keck n an article written for the Washington-based National Interest magazine.
Moscow and Beijing have been negotiating the contract since President Vladimir Putin approved the sale of the Su-35 to China back in 2012. No final conclusion was reached however out of fears by Russia that China will reverse engineer the 4++ generation multi-role fighter jet to produce a domestically built version like it did with the Su-27 three decades ago.
Moscow has also been concerned about Beijing's desire to buy only a small number of the fighters. With just 24 Su-35s, China could reverse engineer the fighter's NIIP Irbis-E passive electronically scanned array radar and 117S engine. This would mean an end to possible future export deals and a loss of both technology and cash for Moscow. With that in mind, Russia demanded China purchase at least 48 fighters but later softened its position due to the escalation of tensions with the West over Ukraine. As of November 2014, sources with the Russian defense industry said China only needed to purchase 24 aircraft.
The sources also said at the time that the contract would likely to be signed between late 2014 and early 2015. For unknown reasons, however, the contract was delayed again, according to Keck.
The Su-35 is seen as a fighter that can greatly extend the operational range of the People's Liberation Army Air Force. The aircraft will enhance China's ability to enforce its claims over the South China Sea.