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UAC takes cautious approach to China Su-35 buy

United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) feels there is scope to sell the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter to China, despite lingering concerns about Beijing’s view toward intellectual property.

“We have a good opportunity to work with China on [the Su-35] despite the success Chinese industry demonstrated [replicating earlier Russian fighters],” says Mikhael Pogosyan, chief executive of Sukhoi parent company UAC.

Speaking to journalists at last week’s Singapore air show, Pogosyan was replying to a journalist’s question about whether he was concerned about intellectual property issues related to a possible acquisition of the advanced type by Beijing.

“We will find a place on the Chinese market and find an opportunity that is in balance with China’s development,” says Pogosyan.

Media reports quoting anonymous officials at Russian state arms export company Rosoboronexport indicate Beijing could sign a deal for 20 Su-35s in 2014.

Beijing is keenly interested in acquiring technologies related to key areas such as jet engines and avionics. Fear of Chinese engineers reverse engineering systems acquired from Moscow has long been a concern in Russian defence circles, particularly in relation to newer Chinese types such as the Shenyang J-11B, based on the Su-27, and the carrier capable J-15, based on the Su-33.

Pogosyan insists that copying an aircraft that was produced “four to five years ago” is “not an instrument of development.”

“I believe we and our Chinese colleagues have a clear understanding on this,” he says. “I do not know successful examples of copying. Aircraft are too complicated to make a good copy. Aircraft are constantly developing organisms. If you cannot see its [full development], you cannot understand what to do for the next three or four years. I believe we have more opportunities with joint development. We and our Chinese colleagues do not look back, but look forward.”

Pogosyan adds that 12 serial production Su-35s were delivered to the Russian air force in 2013. These aircraft are in “full series configuration.” They follow 10 pre-production aircraft that were used for testing between 2010-2013.

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