China considers next-generation Su-33s for aircraft carrier programme
By Reuben F Johnson
China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is close to reaching a decision on the procurement of aircraft for its aircraft carrier programme, Russian industry sources have told Jane's.
Negotiations between the PLAN and the Komsomolsk-na-Amure Aviation Production Association (KnAAPO) in Russia have been held intermittently for several years, with the Chinese military said to be unsure whether to purchase a version of the Sukhoi Su-33 carrier-capable fighter or develop its own carrier aircraft based on the Chengdu J-10.
Russian sources have now told Jane's that under the current proposal the Russian in-service Su-33 would be put back into production and the PLAN would acquire 14 of this type to be used for the training phase of the programme.
This option will see a carrier aircraft delivered to the PLAN in the shortest possible timeframe.
The development of a new-configuration aircraft to be used in actual carrier operations would take place in parallel with this training programme.
"The next step will be to modernise the Su-33, which was first designed in the late 1980s, with a new set of state-of-the-art onboard systems," a KnAAPO representative told Jane's on the eve of the biennial Air Show China in late October. "What this new aeroplane is most likely to be is a combination Su-33 airframe with a radar, avionics and cockpit instrumentation that is a 'developed' configuration based on the Su-30MK2, and this will be the PLAN's operational version."