'Dragon' Flanker timeline revised

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19 years 11 months

Posts: 6,409

I made numerous revisions and editing change to my PLAAF/PLANAF Flanker timeline reflecting recent news and research on older articles and press releases.

I find that the information feels like pieces of a puzzle that does not fit together. There are actually many contradictions on the numbers, and information on the radar is as equally vague. We either have the case of the worst form of reporting, or the truth being deliberately misrepresented or not fully revealed. For example, if you add up the last SU-27UBK order, it adds up to 30, not 28 as reported. The numbers of the first order of SU-30MKK is higher. either from 46 to 47. I just leave the conclusion up to you.


A Timeline of Events

1991 24 SU-27SK and -UBK aircraft. All -SK aircraft are built by KnAAPO, and all -UBK aircraft by IAPO. In addition to No. 25 and 26, No.1, 2, 3 and 4 are UBKs. The cost for the SK is approximately $32 million while the UBK is about $35 million. These early deals were paid in barter, such as clothes and tinned goods, which according to RAND, represented about 65% of the total value.. Or if based on a bilateral agreement, deals were conducted with 50% on A50 currency, where this currency is can only be used to purchase Chinese goods. There is criticism about a said requirement that planes and engines must be returned to Russia for overhauls, but it appears to be an interim requirement, as China lacked the facilities to perform such during that time, and in the quality standards required. Maintenance and overhauls will be conducted on Chinese soil when the proper infrastructure is built. The whole maintenance scheme, while sounding austere, needs to be noted that the two Sukhoi factories, IAPO and KnAAPO, are located in the Russian Far East, and hereby are much closer to China than they are to Moscow.

1992 June. Delivery of first batch, 8 SU-27SKs and 4 SU-27UBKs. PLAAF pilots enter 18 month intensive training course.

1992 November. Delivery of 12 SU-27SKs, plus two complementary SU-27UBKs for pilot and technician training (No. 25 and 26.)

1995 22 SU-27SK aircraft, 6 of which are SU-27UBK two seaters. There are two complementary aircraft, marked No. 49 and No. 50. This makes a total of 50 aircraft in the first two batches, confirmed by photograph of SU-27SK PLAAF serial number No. 49 and No. 50. One report says a number of these aircraft may have Zhuk-27 radar for testing purposes. Unlike the first order, it now appears the second batch includes Sorbatsya ECM pods, presumably a new version. One site reports the radar of the SU-27SK to be a variant called the N001E. FAS.org reports the planes demonstrating a high accuracy in unguided bomb runs using Snakeeye lookalikes, suggesting that the radar has SU-35 style improvements to aid in bombing runs.

1996. License to manufacture signed. Numbers allegedly range from 150 to 300, with 200 the most popularly quoted number. The cost of the license was said to be $2.5 billion, of which $600 million was for knocked down kits, technical documentation and training. According Jane’s and Chinese website reports, this was said to be the -SMK variant. However, production turned out to be the basic -SK variant, although Chinese websites and internet posters continue to refer to the license as -SMK.. It may have been possible that China bought the SU-27 license at the SMK level for technological headroom for upgrades in the future. Provisions of this license include 70% maximum local content, 30% minimum Russian content. Engines license is not granted and have to be procured from Russia. No second export is not allowed. Any changes in the specification or improvements must be notified to the Sukhoi bureau including both new build and existing aircraft. If production numbers are not attained, China can exercise an option for Russia to build the equivalent SU-27s. China will set up maintenance facilities for the engines and planes, where as previously it had to send the planes or engines to Russia for overhaul. Knocked down kits were to be initially supplied by KnAAPO, of which the number was later reported to be 80. Pressing concerns with the Taiwan issue meant that production rates per year would be raised later, with an objective of attaining an optimistic 40 planes a year.

1997 April. About 14 SU-27s were seriously damaged in a typhoon. Three were irreparably damaged. One report, needing verification, says that the aircraft was replaced for free, presumably from the Russians’ own inventory, as part of an expression of good will between Russia and China.

1998. Two test planes assembled and flew for the first time over Shenyang. But due to poor quality, had to be re-manufactured.

1999 March. SU-30 bort 05 is converted into the first SU-30MKK prototype.

1999 July. Third order of SU-27UBK deal signed, with estimated number up to 28, with each plane about $35 million. All -UBK orders are handled by IAPO, while -SK and -MKK orders are handled by KnAAPO.

1999 August. First order of SU-30MKK signed. Early reports vary in number from 40 to 50. The PRC required that KnAAPO be the executor of the contract, instead of IAPO which the Sukhoi has assigned SU-30 two seater construction. KnAAPO built the SU-27SK for the PLAAF but is only allowed to build single seaters. The assignment to KnAAPO showed the PRC being uncomfortable having the SU-30MKK built in the same IAPO plant where the SU-30MKI is being developed in partnership with India.

1999 October. A number of SU-27s participated in the National Flag day celebrating the PRC’s fiftieth anniversary. Planes that participated in the event are marked with a red flag near the right side of the cockpit. Planes that participated included bort 02, 024, 025 and 026.

2000 March. March 5, the first pre-series SU-30MKK, bort 501, had its first flight. The plane showed that despite previously believed, the plane lacked canards and TVC. The much more conservative approach to the plane suggests that unlike the Indians with their SU-30MKI, the Chinese were not willing to wait for years developing Super Flanker features like TVC, canards and phased array, and was in a big hurry to get their version first.

2000 May. May 19, the second pre-series SU-30MKK, bort 502, had its first test flight.

2000 August. In August 10, one report says that seven SU-30MKK has been completed and delivered on this date. It is interesting that the first officially released photos of the SU-30MKK by the PLA were only numbered up to 06. If so, then the actual deliveries of the first order of SU-30MKK were actually 44 to 45.

2000 August. Shenyang Aircraft Corporation begins serial assembly of SU-27, a.k.a J-11. 14 were presumably built by the end of the year. It is possible that these planes may be equipped with a modernized N001 radar that enables R-77 compatibility and simultaneous two target engagement.

2000 November. 502 was publicly displayed in Zhuhai 2000. An SU-30MKK prototype was said to have been ceremoniously handed over at Zhuhai airshow. This could be 501. Officials in Zhuhai also revealed that the 200 plane license won’t be completed, with SK kits up to 80.

2000 December. China receives the first 10 SU-30MKK from KnAAPO as more popularly believed. These are equipped with the N001VE radar.

2000 December. 10 of the third batch IAPO built SU-27UBK were received and assigned to the Chengdu region. They were reportedly equipped with an updated radar capable of firing the R-77 missile (N001V?)

2001 July. China signs contract for the second order of SU-30MKK, presumably 38 aircraft. Reports vary from 38 or 40. It was originally believed that the deliveries of this order was to begin on the end of 2003.

2001 August. 10 more of the SU-30MKK received. MAKS2001 held in Russia showing a third SU-30MKK “prototype” called “503", whose unfinished paint condition suggests a serial production SU-30MKK on loan for publicity purposes.

2001 August. Flight International revealed that the radar for the SU-30MKK would be changed to the Zhuk-MS in the third batch after the 20th plane. This is also reported by JED. SU-30MKK from bort 21 was assigned to a flight test center near Beijing.

2001 December. The last batch SU-30MKK received from the first order, said to be 18 planes.
2001 Possibly 20 J-11s were finished for the year of 2001, adding to the alleged 14 in 2000.

2001 Sukhoi announced its overall deliveries for the year amounted to 50 aircraft. 30 of these were SU-30MKK, 10 of these were SU-27UBK for the PLAAF probably delivered sometime in November or December, and the last 10 were SU-24MK for the Algerian Air Force.
2002 March. Annual spring exercises may have showed the most frequent and most intensive use of the Flankers in exercises yet, including use of SU-30MKKs. However, SU-30MKKs were reported not having fitted any weapons.

2002 April. Allegedly, an SU-30 was said to have crashed into the side of the mountain. While there is no direct proof of the accident, there are reports and rumors of officer turnovers suggestive of a backlash from possible attrition in exercises.

2002 May. CCTV held a celebration in honor of the Shenyang Aircraft Company right in TV. The show featured two newly built SU-27s on stage. Other than a “J-11A” mockup in a Shenyang display stand the year before, this was the first time China acknowledged domestic construction of the SU-27, and the first time such planes were ever seen up close. The fit and finish of the Chinese made Flankers appear superior to the Russian ones, with the manufacture of the planes with the purchase of state of the art precision machinery.

2002 June. There was an acceleration of production in SAC, XAC and CAC plants with full 24 hour shifts. This suggests a major effort to increase J-11 production rate to as high as 30 to 40 a year . It was reported that four “case hardened” J-10s have joined an evaluation unit and had mock dogfights with SU-27s.

2002 July-August, China presumably will sign another contract for the third order of SU-30, now SU-30MK2, presumably a new navalized variant for the airborne arm of the Chinese Navy, the PLANAF. Reports say the plane can use the Kh-31A antiship missile up to a range of 200km and will be equipped with Zhuk radar from Phazotron.

2002 July-August. First reported test of R-77s fired from SU-30MKKs, even though R-77 purchase was first reported in 2000.

2002 August. 10 SU-30MKK delivered, with one report saying for the PLANAF.

2002 August. August 27. A Japanese newspaper reported that China signed a contract for 28 SU-30MK for the Chinese Navy.

2002 August. WS-10A engines, possibly with TVC nozzles, had its first successful flight with an SU-27.

2002 September. There were reports indicating that a Chinese software engineer has manage break the software for the SU-27's fire control radar, a step forward either in reverse engineering the radar or adapting the use of local guided missiles to it.

2002 October. All weapons of the SU-30MKK were successfully fired and tested.

2002 November. Zhuhai air show. Interview with Sukhoi chief designer spoke of an upgraded version, the SU-30MKK2, while Douglas Barrie of Aviation Week mentions of forthcoming SU-30MKK variants as SU-30MK2 and SU-30MK3. A new antiship missile, Kh-59MK was displayed. Sukhoi also annonced intention to create an office in Beijing, working to improve support and looking for ward for more sales.

2002 November. Chinese reports indicate that local content of J-11 production has now reached 60% and trying to attain the pure 100%. Shenyang may be negotiation to lift content restriction may to allow the entire plane to be made from 100% indigenous components and use Chinese missiles like the SD-10 and YJ series.

2002 November. 10 SU-27UBK delivered as IAPO announced completion of deliveries of third order SU-27UBK.

2002 November. 10 J-10s were said to have joined a well known PLAAF SU-27 formation, the 3rd Divsion of Nanjing MR for operational evaluation.

2002 December. 9 SU-30MKK said to be delivered for the PLANAF.

2003 January. Richard Fisher of the Jamestown Foundation made a report confirming the SU-30MK2 and SU-30MK3 for the Chinese Navy. It is presumed that the Chinese Navy intends to arm at least three regiments of SU-30MK2/3, amounting to at least 60 aircraft. SU-30MK3 will be equipped with Kh-59MK with a targeting range of 300km. At least several dozens of J-11 were said to be completed, but will terminate at either the 80th or 120th aircraft, suggesting a move to a new model. (Some other reports presumed it may be SU-30MKK (J-11B? JH-11?), others an improved single seater variant (J-11A?) with SD-10 compatibility, multirole and midflight refueling capability that can serve as an interim version either to a fully domestic SU-27 or SU-30MKK license. Earlier reports suggest SU-30MKK license could entail as much as 150-250 aircraft.)

2003 January. JDW reports that China is close to a deal in signing a 28 plane contract. This is presumably the 28 planes for the PLANAF. Does it mean that the deal wasn’t signed last August? Or is this a separate new deal?

2003 January. January 14. CNN reports China engaging in a massive war game exercise. Since China usually engage in war games in springtime, the timing of this exercise is a surprise. “New fighters” were reported to be training aggressively more than ever before, and this is presumed to be SU-30MKKs.

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