Why China’s Air Force Keeps Buying More Russian Su-35 Fighters

Why China’s Air Force Keeps Buying More Russian Su-35 Fighters

Michael Peck

Security,

Think logistics.

Two days later, a Chinese military television channel reported that China may buy more Su-35s to replace older aircraft. China has about 3,000 aircraft – roughly the size of the U.S. Air Force – including 1,700 fighters.

For a nation that boasts of developing an advanced stealth fighter, it seems strange that China would need to buy warplanes from its former rival Russia.

Yet Moscow is offering to sell more Su-35 fighters to Beijing – and Chinese media reports that Beijing may accept.

(This first appeared several months ago.)

China has already bought 24 Su-35s – an upgraded version of the Cold War Su-27 Flanker – in a 2015 sale worth $2.5 billion, according to Russian news agency TASS. “We are expecting a response from China on our offer to purchase modern weapons and military equipment manufactured in Russia, including additional batches of Su-35 fighter jets,” Russia’s arms export agency told TASS last week.

Two days later, a Chinese military television channel reported that China may buy more Su-35s to replace older aircraft. China has about 3,000 aircraft – roughly the size of the U.S. Air Force – including 1,700 fighters. But many are obsolete Cold War planes, including several hundred Chinese copies of Russia’s 1960s-era MiG-21. Thus even as China fields the fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter – ostensibly the counterpart of the American F-22 and F-35 – the People’s Liberation Army Air Force is saddled with the logistical challenges of maintaining a huge fleet of old planes.

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