The Sukhoi Su-27 “Flanker” was never planned to exported when it was originally developed, unlike its lighter cousin, the MiG-29. However, ever since being approved for export it has been one of the most popular fighter exports in the Asian region. The first customer for the Su-27 was China, which secured a procurement deal while the Soviet Union still existed. But how did Beijing accomplish this?
The beginning of the Su-27’s export success began with the Sino-Soviet thaw in 1989. During Gorbachev’s visit to China in May 1989, motions were made to reopen Sino-Soviet military trade. This was followed by an interview published in a magazine in September 1989 that stated that there would be no political obstacle to China acquiring MiG-29 fighter aircraft. In May 1990, a Chinese delegation visited the Soviet Union to discuss the acquisition of advanced aircraft. This delegation saw demonstrations of the MiG-29, Su-27 and various helicopters.