The Ukrainian Air Force announced on May 27 the downing of Russia’s Su-35 jet fighter around the Kherson region. If the news is accurate, this will be the second Su-35 to be shot down by the Ukraine army. The Ukrainian army took down the first one near Kharkiv in early April. The two incidents are considered a big blow-out to not only Russia but also China. The first reason is that Russia’s Su-35 is regarded as a real killer. The second reason is that the Su-35s are vital in China’s Airpower.
The West has chance to develop more effective combat tactics against Russian Air Force
The Su-35 jet fighter is the most techonological advanced aircraft of the Russian military. It is known for its outstanding maneuverability and thrust vectoring engines. These technologies allow them to turn considerably tighter than other standard aircraft, making them suitable for air superiority missions.
After the first Su-35 was shot down, specialists from the Ukrainian military had recovered important and previously classified components from its wreckage and notified the British intelligence. The information was then taken to the Defense, Science, and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) in Bolton, Wiltshire. Here, experts spent 10 days analyzing them.
According to the UK newspaper Express, the early assessment was so positive that the systems were transferred to Nevada, U.S., for further forensic study.
Justin Bronk, air power and technology expert at the RUSI think tank, told the Express: “Any potential opportunity to examine the radar components or electronic warfare pods on the downed SU-35 would be valuable as, even damaged, such components can confirm or undermine existing intelligence assessments about how they work.”
Prof. Alessio Patalano of the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London, added, “The SU-35S isn’t a simple drone – it is a sophisticated and very advanced piece of machinery which took decades to develop. Once its tech is stolen, it isn’t easily fixable and you can be sure that, depending on what the UK and US discover, Russia will be worried.”
Ukraine war lessons for China in downing of Russian Sukhoi-35 fighter
That’s the title of an article from the South China Morning Post published shortly after the first Su-25 was taken down. The report raised concerns over “tactical lessons for the Chinese military” because China is the world’s second-biggest fleet of Su-35 fighter jets.
China signed a 2-billion-dollar contract with Sukhoi in 2015 for 24 of the Su-35. In 2018, these fighter jets joined the People’s Liberation Army patrols over the South China Sea and around Taiwan. SCMP’s analysis stated that the Su-35’s advanced thrust-vectoring engines piqued China’s attention.
SCMP cited Zhou Chenming, a military analyst in Beijing, saying, “To learn from this, the Chinese air force will need to carefully identify potential mechanical problems with its own Su-35s and improve maintenance.”
Indeed, when talking about the West’s examination of the shot-down Su-35, professor Patalano said, “Examining this system won’t just allow NATO to understand Russian capabilities. China has been worried since the beginning of operations in Ukraine precisely because this could happen.’
He noted that since China reverse-engineers everything Russian supplies, the Chinese army might have included elements from the SU-35 in its other J-Class fighters.
He added, “The West doesn’t have much insight into Chinese technology so, in terms of command and control and long-range capabilities, this is a unique opportunity which could, potentially, make a huge difference. If you know the frequency a system operates on, for instance, you can disrupt it.”
According to an analysis from Da Ji Yuan news outlet, China does not highlight the advantages of the Su-35 in its propaganda. However, the regime has purchased a considerable number of Su-35s despite having many of the knockoff versions of the J-11 and J-16. This highlights the unique features of the Su-35, which has specific capabilities that cannot be replaced by China’s home-grown aircraft.