What happened to Russia’s Su-35 fighter, so many countries refused to buy; is it the quality issues or outside force that prevents it?
In the Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter family, the Su-35 is an improved heavy fighter of the 4++ generation; is considered one of the most multirole 4.5th generation fighters in the world.
However, in late 2021 and early 2022, this super-maneuverable fighter encountered unprecedented “stumbling blocks”, when Indonesia announced the cancellation of the contract, Egypt extended the contract, and Algeria refused directly, and export prospects are grim as ever.
As a deeply improved version of the famous Su-27 Flanker air superiority fighter, developed in the Soviet era, the Su-35 (also known as the Su-35S) the main customer is still Russia and China.
Among them, the Russian Air Force purchased a total of more than 100 Su-35 fighters, while China ordered 24 aircraft in November 2015 with a total contract value of $2.5 billion; The last one left the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Factory, to be handed over to China in November 2018.
As a large country, China was the first international customer, having purchased the Su-35; this is clearly a “direct advertisement” for Sukhoi. It should be known that at that time China had very successfully copied Russia’s Su-27 into J-11 and J-16.
In 2018, the Su-35 had two new customers, one was Indonesia. Russia and Indonesia signed a contract to buy and sell 11 Su-35 fighter jets, worth 1.14 billion USD. This was supposed to be certain; but only half a year later, the Indonesian side has changed a bit.
The reason is due to the “America’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)”, signed by US President Donald Trump in January 2018; Therefore, Indonesia’s purchase of fighter jets from Russia, will be subject to US sanctions. Although Indonesia proposes to use palm oil and rubber to pay Russia.
At the end of December 2021, Indonesian Air Force Chief of Staff Fajar Plasettio said in a statement: “With heavy hearts, we must announce that we have canceled our plan to purchase Su-35 fighter jets.”. This means that Indonesia officially abandoned the purchase of Su-35.
There is information that Indonesia intends to “choose one of two” which is the French Rafale and the US F-15EX / QA / SA. But it can be seen that buying American or French aircraft is too expensive; Along with that, the price of weapons is also high. Currently, the price of F-15EX and Rafale aircraft is 150 to 200 million USD, twice the price of Russia’s Su-35.
In the same year, Egypt also purchased 24 Su-35s with a contract value of about $2 billion. 17 of these Su-35s have been produced, but they remain at the Komsomolsk plant and have not been delivered.
The photo from the end of December 2021 shows that the Egyptian Air Force insignia on the fuselage has been removed and it is said that it could be returned, or resold, to Iran. And according to the latest information in early 2021, outside of Egypt, Algeria originally intended to buy Su-35, but later cancel the deal.
In addition to political and diplomatic reasons, the technical defects of the Su-35 have long been ignored, which is the Su-35’s radar, which uses the PESA type of passive phased array “Snow Leopard-E”; there is a generational difference with the current AESA “Rotten Street” 77-1 radar.
Although the weapons of the Su-35, such as Russia’s advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles such as the R-77, are no less than the French Meteor or the American AIM-120C; but the radar of the Su-35 is inferior to the radar equipped on the French Rafale and the American F-15EX.
The leading Russian website quoted Algerian military analysts as saying that the Su-35 is 60% more expensive than the Algerian Su-30MKA, but is not equipped with AESA radar. Therefore, the Su-35 does not meet the requirements of Algeria’s new fighter; Along with that, the unit price of about 100 million USD / unit is not cheap.
Thus, with the drastic suppression from the US, as well as the price is not cheap and there are designs that are outdated in terms of radar; Therefore, the Su-35 has “lost its breath” in the export market before the French Rafale and the US F-35.
The bright spot in this 2022, perhaps Russia only relies on Iranian customers, who want to quickly strengthen their air force, in the face of threats from the US and Israel; So Su-35 is probably a reasonable choice for Tehran.
But the purchase of Iran’s fighter aircraft is “hot outside, cold inside”, when the country’s economy in recent years has dropped without stopping, inflation has increased, so it is also difficult for Iran to buy Su-35 immediately or in large quantities.