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Chinese Su-35s now fully operational

Photo: via Chinese internet

 

Any lingering doubts over China’s plans to introduce Russian-made Su-35 multi-role fighters have been removed, with recent confirmation that the jet is now fully operational. Photos of the aircraft were published showing it participating in a joint combat exercise in the South China Sea.

The acquisition of Su-35s for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has been among the most hotly debated fighter purchases in recent years. Critics have questioned the thinking behind introducing yet another advanced fighter at a time in which the PLAAF is also adding the indigenous J-20A to its inventory. Others argue that the Flanker buy is yet another symbol of the unique friendship and cooperation between Beijing and Moscow.

China ordered 24 Su-35s in November 2015 at a cost of around $2bn. Deliveries to the PLAAF began on December 25, 2016. The first four examples in the initial batch flew from their factory airfield at Komsomolsk-on-Amur to a PLAAF training base at Cangzhou, 110 miles (180km) south of Beijing. They continued on to Suixi air base, home of the 2nd Fighter Division, 6th Air Regiment, assigned to the strategically important Southern Theatre Command.

Five more Su-35s were delivered in March 2017 and another five followed in December last year.

See the May 2017 issue of AFM for an assessment of the Su-35, the ultimate single-seat, multi-role Flanker derivative.

A PLAAF Su-35 on patrol over the South China Sea. via Chinese internet

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