China might purchase more Su-35 fighter jets, Chinese media and military analysts said, after Russia reportedly offered an additional batch of the warplanes to China.
Although the Chinese Air Force has developed rapidly in recent years, many outdated fighter jets are still in service, so bringing in Su-35 fighter jets to replace them will do no harm to China, Weihutang, a military column affiliated with China Central Television, reported on Saturday.
The Weihutang report came after TASS Russian News Agency reported on Thursday that the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation has offered to sell another batch of Su-35 fighter jets to China.
However, Fu Qianshao, a Chinese air defense expert, told the Global Times on Sunday that while China could indeed buy more Su-35s, they are not meant to replace older Chinese jets because the Russian aircraft is too expensive and China has too many old jets. The replacement will most likely be done by domestically made warplanes, he said.
Having already bought a batch of Su-35s previously, China does not need more to learn from it technically, Fu noted.
But if China indeed buys more, it would make the Chinese Air Force's logistical support for the warplane fleet more efficient as there would be more spare parts and dedicated personnel, Fu said, noting that economic and political factors might also play a part in the potential deal due to China and Russia's close relations, and a Chinese purchase would help boost Russia's aviation industry.
China previously purchased 24 Su-35 fighter jets for around $2.5 billion from Russia, which have all been delivered to China, TASS reported.
When asked at a routine press conference in November 2018 if all 24 Su-35s had been delivered, Ren Guoqiang, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense, didn't directly address the question but said that China and Russia's military technological cooperation projects are making steady progress as scheduled.
The fighter jets have since joined the People's Liberation Army Air Force service, conducting missions including patrols around the island of Taiwan and drills in the South China Sea.
Fu said the Su-35 is one of the best fourth generation fighter jets in the world, but is still no match for the most advanced fifth generation stealth planes like China's J-20.
Russia also offered China its fifth-generation fighter jet Su-57, Jane's Defense Weekly reported in March.
The Chinese side has yet to announce any response to Russia's offers.