Russia’s air force is showing off its most advanced fighter in military exercises in the Pacific Ocean, marking another spot on the globe where Moscow is flexing its military might.
This weekend The Aviationist reported that Russia had released a video showing the Su-35 Flanker E aircraft flying in drills near the disputed Kuril Islands. The island chain stretches north across the Pacific from the Japanese island of Hokkaido to the southern tip of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. Four of the islands are part of a 60-year-old dispute between the two nations, which has stopped them from signing a peace treaty to end World War II.
Russia took control of the islands at the end of the war and by 1949 deported all residents to Japan. A 1951 treaty between the Allies and Japan called for returning the islands to Japan, but Moscow never signed the accord. Since then there have been several attempts to broker a compromise between the two countries, but all have failed. It’s estimated around 30,000 Russians live on the islands today and one of them boasts a military presence.
Deploying the Su-35 to the Pacific may be the latest attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to demonstrate the prowess of the Kremlin’s war machine, which is on fully display in Syria and Ukraine. Or it could be a shrewd business move. Russia has been trying to sell the Su-35 to China for years and there are reports Beijing may finally be ready to buy 24 of the aircraft.
The fighter jet sports more thrust and a larger fuel capacity than China’s existing air fleet, making it an attractive option given Beijing’s recent island-building campaign in the South China Sea. China wants to be able to better project its forces over the roughly 1.4 million square mile area. A demonstration at sea might be just what Beijing needs to make the purchase.
Russia is in talks with several other countries to buy the Su-35, including Pakistan.