China Cuts into Russia's Arms Sales

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Russian daily "Izvestia" reports that China recently successfully tested the naval version of its modern J-10 jet fighter. According to the paper, "... for the first time, China has confirmed not only its ability to create an aircraft carrier fleet, but also the ability to independently produce carrier-based fighters. This event can be regarded as a direct challenge to Russia and the U.S."

According to Russian sources, the aircraft took off and landed on the deck of the aircraft carrier "Shi Lang", named in honor of the Chinese general who conquered the island of Taiwan in 1683. In another life, "Shi Lang" was a Soviet aircraft carrier "Varyag," sold by Ukraine to Beijing in the late 1990s. "Varyag" has been anchored in the port of Dalian since 2002. All this time, Chinese scientists have been actively engaged in its repair and modernization. Beijing made no secret that it considers the Soviet aircraft carrier as a platform for working out its own technology for building an aircraft carrier fleet. The only problem for the implementation of these plans was the lack of aircraft capable of landing on the deck of the ship, as well as lack of experience in training naval aviation pilots.

Russian military and industrial leaders are concerned that China's successful development of indigenous military aircraft will diminish Russia's position on the arms market. "Izvestia" earlier reported that China offered Pakistan the licensed production of the FC-1 fighter, which Russia considers as the closest competitor to its MiG-29 military jet. In the near future, Beijing is planning the production of at least 2,000 of the latest fighter planes for its own air force and for export. Possible buyers may include Bangladesh, Lebanon, Iran, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Algeria - all countries that traditionally bought Russian military aircraft. In Malaysia, for example, the Chinese are even willing to service Russian Su-30MKM planes delivered over the past few years.

This year, according to Mikhail Dmitriev, head of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technological Cooperation, Russia earned $8.5 billion from weapons sales - a significant portion of this amount came from the sale of combat aircraft. If China continues to move forward with its own aircraft development and export, "these earning could become one of our last successes on the arms market."

Yevgeny Bendersky is the Senior Strategic Advisor for International Operations at Jenkins Hill International, LLC and a RealClearWorld contributor.
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