China to Buy Su-33 Fighter from Russia
24 October 2006
Russian Kommersant online daily newspaper revealed that Russian state-run weapon exporter Rosoboronexport is completing negotiations with China to deliver up to 50 Sukhoi Su-33 (NATO codename: Flanker-D) fighter aircraft in a purchase deal reportedly worth US$2.5 billion in total. Should the deal goes through, it would be the second biggest export contract for Russian-made weapons.
Although Rosoboronexport refused to comment on the purchase because of its confidential agreement on military cooperation, it is understood that China will initial acquire two Su-33 fighters worth US$100 million for trial and evaluations. These fighters will be constructed by Komsomolsk-on-Amur Production Association and are scheduled to be delivered in 2007~08.
The initial two fighters will be tested on land airfield first and then on an aircraft carrier. China’s Dalian Shipyard is currently refitting the ex-Soviet Navy aircraft carrier Varyag which China acquired from Ukraine in 1999. The ship has been stationed there since 2002 and was painted in the PLA Navy grey in 2005.
In addition to the first batch of two fighters, the agreed option provides for delivery of an additional 12 Su-33 fighters and the consignment may eventually widen to 48, bringing the total cost to a sheer US$2.5 billion.
The PLA Navy is known to have been seeking an aircraft carrier for many years, and is expected to have one fully operational carrier by 2010. The carrier may initially be equipped with foreign-made fighters, but China is believed to be developing its own carrier-based fighter aircraft using Russian technology.
The single-seat, twin-engine Su-33 is the naval variant of the famous Su-27 Flanker fighter aircraft. Originally known as Su-27K, the fighter was developed in the early 1980s for operating from the Soviet navy’s aircraft carriers. The major difference from the Su-27 is that the Su-33 is fitted with an additional pair of canards as well as folding wings for carrier operations.
China currently operates two variants of the Su-27 fighter family in its air force and navy: the Su-27SK/UBK fighter and the Su-30MKK fighter-bomber. Should this deal finally comes true, the Su-33 would become the third variant of the family to be serving with the Chinese armed force.