Procurement: November 8, 2004

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:   Chinas deal with Sukhoi to buy 200 Su-27SK fighters for $2.5 billion, and assemble them in China, has paused. The snag: China has acquired a case of buyers remorse. They want their Flankers to carry anti-ship missiles. There is just one problem: the Su-27SK is an air-superiority fighter. It can carry dumb air-to-ground ordinance, but the Su-27SKs main purpose is to shoot down other planes. It lacks the ability to fire anti-ship missiles.

Since the assembly deal was signed in 1996, the Flanker has matured into a very capable multi-mission aircraft. China has bought other Flankers, the Su-30MKK and the Su-30MK2, which like the F-15E, carry a formidable ground-attack capability. Unlike the F-15E, these aircraft have a significant anti-ship missile capability in addition to being superb air-to-air fighters. China would like to shift production to the Su-27SKM, which can carry anti-ship missiles, but Russias made no decision on whether to export those planes yet.

Sukhoi has denied reports in the Russian media that assembly of Su-27SKs has been halted. That said, there has been a pause in production albeit the two parties are discussing whether the aircraft of the second stage will be the Su-27SKM. The halt in assembly has been explained as an effort to avoid a surplus of spare parts by some experts.

The PLAAF (People's Liberation Army Air Force) has received 60 of the Su-27SKs already assembled (out of a total of 105 kits delivered.) This is probably the answer to the halt in the delivery of new assembly kits. Sukhoi will be eager to sell the new version of the Su-27, but the decision documents and the inter-governmental agreement will take time (a more logical explanation for the pause than the absurd claim of having too many spare parts). Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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