Warplanes: May 27, 2004

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Recent deliveries of new Russian fighter aircraft has boosted the air combat capability of the Chinese Air Force significantly. The Peoples Republic of China, in their ongoing attempt to upgrade their armed forces, particularly their air combat assets, is receiving 24 more Su-30MKK Multirole Fighters. These aircraft are different from earlier deliveries of Su-30s, being improved naval variants designed to operate from aircraft carriers. The differences include the ability to carry naval weapons such as the Kh-31 anti-ship missile. This is a major boost in the PLANs (Peoples Liberation Army Navy) combat capabilities, since most of the Chinese air force hardware is obsolete. 

China has been working hard since the 1990s to modernize all aspects of its armed forces, whose equipment is still largely out of date. Given the importance of air power in modern  warfare, it is not surprising, therefore, that the Chinese have been eager to acquire state-of-the-art combat aircraft from anywhere they can, and at a price they can afford. Like most countries on a tight budget, Russia has been a prime source of reasonably priced, but still high-tech weaponry. The Chinese have purchased significant quantities of ground and air arms from the Russians over the years to update their arsenals. 

The purchase of the Su-30MKK will likely cause further concern to Chinas neighbors, particularly Taiwan, who have nervously watched Chinese military modernization  during the 90s and into the 21st century. The Su-30MKK is currently the most advanced aircraft in the PLA arsenal and one of the most lethal air-to-air combatants that Russia offers for export. 

The Su-30MKK is a two-seat multirole fighter that was developed as an improvement to the Su-27 Flanker. Among the users of the Su-30 are Indonesia, India, and, of course, China. First ordered in 1999, deliveries of these  38 Su-30s did not begin until 2000. In addition to the fighters themselves, the Chinese have purchased a large variety of weapons for them,  including Kh-59E TV/command guided air-to-surface missile, Kh-29T TV-guided air-to-surface missile, KAB-500Kr TV-guided bomb and others. The Su-30MKK is designed for long-range attack fighter-bomber missions, making it capable of performing a variety of roles including air superiority, suppression of enemy air defenses, and long-range ground attack. The aircraft is outfitted with a state-of-the-art coherent pulse Doppler radar with a look-down/shoot-down capability. It also has an improved electro-optic system which includes an infrared search and track sensor with a laser rangefinder. In the air to air role the fighter is outfitted with a 30mm Gsh-301 fitted internally with 150 rounds of ammunitions and has ten hard points which can be outfitted with a variety of AA missiles including R-27R1 and R-73E air to air missiles. 

With this type of air combat hardware, and provided with the right quality of training of a large amount of time behind the stick, the Chinese air force has the potential to become a much more competent war-fighting force in the future, much to the discomfort of its Asian neighbors.

 


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