China has taken delivery of the 24 Su-35S (NATO: Flanker-E) jets ordered from Russia in a deal worth $2.5 billion.
The planes, of the 4.5 generation, cost about $100 million apiece at the time the contract was signed. Meanwhile, prices have come down, but a Su-35S still costs about $65 million today.
According to Ukrainian intelligence, only 9 of the 24 aircraft are fully operational. The rest have various problems, and most are avionics-related.
The Su-35 was one of the most feared multirole aircraft before the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Its image as a lethal weapon faded after Ukraine managed to shoot down more than 20 units. Information coming out of China will further diminish the plane’s appeal.
Also read: The reason why Russia did not send the pride of its air force, the Su-57 “Felon”, to Ukraine
Because of heavy losses in Ukraine, Russia is considering reintroducing old Su-24 units into service to take over ground attack duties from the Su-35.
The Su-35S, the newest version of the aircraft, first flew in 2008. The project was developed as an intermediate step up to the Su-57 stealth aircraft.
So far 142 Su-35S units have been built. One of these would end up in American and British hands after being shot down by the Ukrainians.
Russia’s other export weapons have also fared poorly in Ukraine. Examples are the Tigr armoured vehicle or the S-400 airborne systems, apparently incapable of intercepting missiles fired by HIMARS launchers.