China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is set to receive the first four of 24 Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 'Flanker-E' multirole fighters in 2016, Russia's RIA Novosti news agency quoted Vyacheslav Shport, the governor of Khabarovsk Krai, as saying during a 15 September visit to the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KnAAPO).
KnAAPO will deliver all 24 Su-35s between 2016 and 2018, the governor said in a speech during the opening of a new aircraft production plant.
The aircraft deal, announced last November by Russian defence conglomerate Rostec, makes China the first foreign contractor of the Su-35, which is claimed to be an upgraded and highly manoeuvrable '4++ generation' fighter with characteristics and performance close to those of upcoming 'fifth-generation' combat aircraft.
It is described by IHS Jane's All the World's Aircraft: Development & Production as having a maximum level speed of Mach 2.25 at 11,000 m (36,089 ft), a rate of climb of 16,800 m/min at sea level, a combat payload of 8,000 kg, and a maximum range with internal fuel of 1,529 km (sea level).
The Sino-Russian agreement reportedly includes not only the sale of the 24 fighters for a total of USD2 billion (USD83 million per unit) but also the delivery of ground support equipment and reserve aircraft engines.
According to IHS Jane's World Air Forces , China has been trying to acquire the Su-35 - along with its Saturn 117S jet engine - from Russia for several years. Interest in the fighter was first shown eight years ago by then PLAAF Commander General Xu Qiliang at the Airshow China 2008.
Although sales discussions began in 2011, the signing of a contract was delayed for years because the two sides refused to compromise on certain key positions. One of the earliest points of contention was Russia's insistence on a minimum buy of 48 aircraft, a position that has since softened to the procurement of just 24.
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