Russia’s military buildup shows no signs of slowing. Moscow recently ordered 50 twin-engine Sukhoi Su-35S multirole fighters to bolster the country’s air force.
The new order, first reported by TASS Defense, is valued to be somewhere between $788 million and $1.4 billion, according to trade press reports. The Kremlin ordered 48 of the aircraft in 2009; most of the aircraft have now been delivered, with some spotted late last year flying near the disputed Kuril Islands.
Sukhoi also recently inked a $2 billion agreement with China for 24 Su-35S jets and reached a deal to produce another dozen for Indonesia. Last week the company signed an agreement with Algeria for 12 Sukhoi Su-32 tactical bombers, concluding eight years of negotiations.
The lucrative contracts have helped boost Russia’s economy, which has been walloped in recent years by economic sanctions over the nation’s actions in Ukraine and the dramatic tumble in the price of oil.
The deals, particularly the one with China, also allows Russian President Vladimir Putin to poke his thumb in the eye of the U.S. and its NATO allies at a time of great global tensions, including those in the South China Sea where Beijing is creating man-made islands in an effort to expand its military footprint in Asia.
As for the Su-35 itself, the jet is an updated version of the Su-27 (NATO code name: Flanker), a workhorse of the Russian Air Force. Many analysts compare the Su-35 to the F/A-18 Super Hornet made by Boeing.
The Su-35 can carry guide air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, among other arms. The updated plane has a new integrated control system that improves the fighter's handling and maneuverability, better engines and improved stealth radar, according to Sukhoi’s website. The jet’s thrust vectoring engines enable it to make unusual maneuvers while flying (see the video below).
The planes cost around $65 million each, similar to the F/A-18, but far less than the Lockheed Martin-produced F-22 Raptor, with a price tag of $150 million, or the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which costs around $100 million or more depending on the variant.