BEIJING, -- China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is set to receive the first four of 24 Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 'Flanker-E' multirole fighters before the end of 2016, Russia's TASS news agency reported on 14 December.
"The first four Sukhoi Su-35s are to fly over to China by 25 December," the state-owned media outlet quoted an unnamed source within Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) as saying.
FSMTC deputy chief Vladimir Drozhzhov had told TASS in November that Moscow had begun acting on the first phase of its contractual liabilities to China to provide the multirole fighters.
This followed an announcement made in September by Vyacheslav Shport, the governor of Khabarovsk Krai, that the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KnAAPO) would deliver all 24 Su-35s between 2016 and 2018.
The aircraft deal, announced in November 2015 by Russian defence conglomerate Rostec, makes China the first foreign contractor of the Su-35, which is claimed to be an upgraded and highly manoeuvrable '4++ generation' fighter with characteristics and performance close to those of upcoming 'fifth-generation' combat aircraft.
It is described by IHS Jane's All the World's Aircraft: Development & Production as having a maximum level speed of Mach 2.25 at 11,000 m (36,089 ft), a rate of climb of 16,800 m/min at sea level, a combat payload of 8,000 kg, and a maximum range with internal fuel of 1,529 km (sea level).
The Sino-Russian agreement reportedly includes not only the sale of the 24 fighters for a total of USD2 billion (USD83 million per unit) but also the delivery of ground support equipment and spare aircraft engines.
According to IHS Jane's World Air Forces , China has been trying to acquire the Su-35 - along with its Saturn 117S jet engine - from Russia for several years. Interest in the fighter was first shown eight years ago by then PLAAF Commander General Xu Qiliang at the Airshow China 2008.
Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E Supermaneuverable Multirole fighter aircraft.