Moscow has said it would sell its latest, most technologically advanced fighter plane to the Chinese government -- the Su-37 -- as part of Russia's continuing effort to forge economic, political, and especially military ties with Beijing.
According to a report from the American Policy Council . Russia currently is hammering out a deal to sell an undisclosed number of the new jets, although not committing to buying any itself. The latest warplane deal comes on the heels of a previous one last fall in which Moscow agreed to sell China $2 billion worth of advanced Su-30MKK fighters.
One of the Su-37's Lyulka AL-37FU Turbo-Jet Engines, in downward thrust vector position.
Earlier, Moscow agreed to sell Beijing a license to manufacture its own indigenous Su-27s -- an arrangement that has helped finance research and development of the new Russian fighter.
Unique among new generation fighters, the SU-37with a crew of one, has reverse thrust-vectoring capability, which gives the plane unprecedented maneuverability. "Thrust vectoring" is a technique used to rotate the plane's twin rear engine exhaust nozzles; the pilot can move them in a variety of maneuvering directions to help compliment the movement of traditional rudders and ailerons. Such capability, experts say, can give the plane more combat survivability by allowing it to more easily escape missiles and enemy gunfire, either from the ground or from opposing aircraft.
The United States is currently developing a similar aircraft, using a modified F-15 platform, but, like the Russian plane, it is still undergoing flight tests.
However, the Russian fighter began flying in 1996, and it is believed to be more advanced than the U.S. jet.
Russia first publicly displayed the aircraft Aug. 1, 1999. According to the engineers at the Sukhoi Design Bureau, the plane has no equivalent in other air forces, and is "the first plane of the 21st century."
Speaking at the demonstration, Russian test pilot Yevgeny Frolov said that unlike aircraft with conventional thrust, this vectored-thrust model could be recovered from spins or from stall attitudes at almost any altitude. Frolov, who appeared at the demonstration with Air Force Commander Petr Deynekin, said he has made 30 flights on the Su-37 in the past four months.
Russia's new Su-37, with reverse thrust vectoring engine nozzles, was displayed publicly for the first time Aug. 1, 1999.
Though Federation of American Scientists researchers said their information led them to believe Russia had no plans to buy the plane themselves, Deynekin said at the Aug. 1 flight test that the Russian air force would "definitely be a purchaser of the Su-37."
The revelation of such a capable new fighter plane has Western military analysts worried, especially since Russia and China continue to forge new cooperative defense and military technology ties.
The latest in a string of official meetings between the two countries ended Tuesday, when Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian completed talks with acting President Vladmir Putin, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev and others.
Citing Russian Defense Ministry sources, the government's ITAR-TASS news agency said the visit will "expand the framework of Russian-Chinese military cooperation." Among areas of cooperation, according to TASS, are "the emerging military-political situation in the Asian-Pacific region" and an exchange of views "on Washington's decision to increase military spending in order to implement the national missile defense program."
TASS also reported, "Among the important questions on the agenda of the forthcoming talks are the development and deepening of military-technical cooperation between Russia and China."
J. Michael Waller, editor of the American Foreign Policy Council's "Russian Reform Monitor" newsletter, said in an email update this week that Gen. Chi had stated recently that he believes war with the U.S. is "inevitable."
"His latest visit to Moscow should be viewed in that context," Waller said.