China possible customer of Russian Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jet

China is weighing options to buy Russia's new Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jet as Moscow has identified China and India as potential customers to acquire its advanced warplane, according to a media report echoed by The Business Standard. Unlike China, India does not have a fifth-generation fighter, so the Su-57 looks an interesting solution to India.

China possible customer of Russian Sukhoi Su 57 stealth fighter jet Sukhoi Su-57 (Picture source: Russian MoD)

Described by Russian President Vladimir Putin as "the world's best military plane", the Su-57 is a fifth-generation multi-role fighter jet capable of both aerial combat and hitting ground and naval targets, thus a rival of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II.

Viktor Kladov, director of international cooperation and regional policy at Russia's Rostec defense industrial holding company at a briefing at LIMA 2019 in Malaysia identified India and China as potential buyers, state-run Global Times reported on Monday. The Chinese air force, which currently has a range of homegrown new aircraft including the stealth fighter J-20, besides Russia's Su-35s, is keeping a close eye on India's acquisition of France's Rafale plane adding a new strategic dimension to its air assets.

China has been developing its own new generation military aircraft but the indigenous aircraft industry is still heavily reliant on Russian engines for the planes as it is yet to produce a reliant engine of its own. Both China and Pakistan rely on Russian engines for their jointly produced JF-17 Thunder.

While US warplanes stress stealth and beyond visual range attacks, the Su-57 can evade incoming long-range missiles through its super-maneuverability and engage enemies at close range, a situation where stealth is not as important as super-maneuverability.

The Su-57E, an export version of the Su-57, is expected to receive export approval from president Putin in a few weeks. This would take place in the framework of the two countries' strategic cooperation. The Su-57 could also become a strong market competitor to the Chinese FC-31 stealth fighter jet, Weihutang, a column affiliated with China Central Television (CCTV), reported on 29 March, noting that the FC-31 and the American F-35 are the only two current fifth-generation fighter jets available on the international market.