The military portal Bulgarianmilitary.com on November 15 posted an article in which journalists found out the reason that the Ministry of Defense of the People’s Republic of China declared their desire to purchase a batch of twelve Su-57 fighters.
This was announced in September 2020 by the media of the People’s Republic of China. The media indicated the amount of the possible deal, which was estimated at two billion dollars.
“This deal can be an excellent advertisement for the Russian military-industrial complex. Countries such as Egypt, Iran, and even Turkey are currently eyeing the fifty-seventh. China can become the motivating link that will push other countries to the deal,” Chinese journalists wrote. However, according to Bulgarian experts, whatever praise speeches the Chinese have, with whom almost all Western media agree, everything is not as rosy for Russia as they would like it to be.
According to the state-run Huangqio Shibao newspaper, the signing of the contract will be carried out by numerous tests of the Russian fighter in the airspace of the “sky.” Flights by pilots of the Chinese Air Force will become a prerequisite. They will have to advise on how to operate a fighter jet. And these tips will be distributed only to Chinese experts and will not be intended for Russians.
China will also insist on piloting a fighter jet as part of several Chinese J-20 Chengdu (black eagle). According to journalists, experts will look at the possibility of interaction between Russian and Chinese aircraft manufacturers.
But as Boyko Nikolov, the author of the article, notes, the functions of the J-20 and the functions of the Su-57 are very different, that it would be possible to check them for interaction. If the first is designed to gain dominance in the air, the second is a multifunctional machine capable of acting as part of a group and alone. It is simply pointless to consider a Russian fighter from this point of view.
“The point is that the Su-57 has technologies that will help improve the characteristics of the “Chinese,” Nikolov writes. It is no secret that the USSR’s design school, and then Russia is much superior to the school of Chinese designers. “Inventing different functional and design features in the style of the Russians. But what can’t be taken away from the Chinese is the collection and analysis of data, which results in their own developments embedded in their own aircraft,” the author says.
The chances that China will buy the Su-57 are very high. But by setting the conditions of pre-sale tests, the Chinese will try to “take over” some technologies already at this stage. And what will not be found on test flights will be “disassembled to the cog” immediately after fighters’ purchase. However, when buying, the amount can be much less than previously stated two billion dollars. After the tests, the Chinese will need no 12 aircraft. You can do less.
But most interestingly, according to many experts, China will buy Russian fighter jets only in the variant that provides for the aircraft’s operation in the Russian Armed Forces. No export Su-57 is in question. And as we know, fighter jets with the “E” (export) has a slightly truncated version of the aircraft equipment. This fact again emphasizes that the Chinese need a “donor” for their fifth-generation fighters. “It is better to copy and apply than to conduct your own development, which can be much more expensive than buying several fighters,” says Nikolov.
The author asks: “How will this be treated in Russia?” And he immediately replies: “Both sides have long worked out this approach.” It is worth remembering how the Chinese bought the Su-35. The price tag for the plane, which the Russians put up, exceeded $104 million per unit. And it turned out to be almost 10 million dollars more expensive than the American fighter of the fifth-generation F-35.
To numerous questions of military experts, why the Chinese needed older models of the Russian model than American novelties, representatives of the Ministry of Defense of China answered that Russia together with the fighters would supply a full set of weapons, spare parts, ground equipment, and train technicians who will be able to carry out technical work without the help of representatives from Russia. “The truth is that few people believed such explanations – the Russians and without additional payments provide all their aircraft with such a “recruitment,” which makes them competitive in the arms market,” the Bulgarian writes.
According to the author, the truth is that the Chinese were not interested in the fighters themselves, but their power plants. Engines with a deflected thrust vector were a weak spot for China’s MIC. But immediately after the Su-35 arrived in the “heavenly,” J-20 began to fly on the brand-new AL-31FP, instead of the AL-31F, standing before the deal. The difference between the two modifications is almost three times in all indicators. The installation of Russian “engines” on Chinese fighter jets brought the J-20 closer to the supersonic capabilities of the same F-35. “If the Chinese had gone through their own research, such a search would have set the Black Eagle back five years. It also gave China the opportunity to more thoroughly develop its own rotary nozzles based on the J-10B fighter’s power plants.
These are the reasons that have cost Beijing a huge overpayment. The Kremlin knew the reason for buying Russian planes, so it raised the price tag many times. “However, both sides got what they wanted to get initially. The Chinese – technology, software, and expert advice. Russia – enthusiastic reviews of the Chinese press, financing and strengthening friendly ties with the “heaven.” And then, additional buyers for their planes,” Summed up Boyko Nikolov.