Bangalore: Russian aerospace authorities have confirmed what has been speculated upon publicly for years that China had produced its own "fake" version of the Su-27SK fighter jet in violation of intellectual property agreements.
"We are in discussions with China on this issue," said Mikhail Pogosyan, first vice president on programme coordination, Russian Aircraft Corp., during a press conference here at the AeroIndia 2009
Pogosyan is also director general of the Sukhoi design bureau.
China and Russia contracted to build 200 Su-27SKs in 1995, with the Shenyang Aircraft Corp. as the local partner, at a cost of $2.5 billion. Under the deal the aircraft, dubbed as the J-11A, would be outfitted with Russian avionics, radars and engines. However, the contract was dissolved in 2006, after production of only 95 aircraft, once the Russians discovered that China was developing an indigenous version, J-11B, with Chinese avionics and systems.
The Chinese programme resulted in the production of six J-11B fighters for testing purposes, but ran into problems over the production of a suitable engine to power the aircraft. The J-11B remains outfitted with the Russian engine, the AL-31F.
At joint meetings held last year, both Pogosyan and the Russian defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov managed to apply sufficient pressure on Chinese officials to compel them to respect intellectual property rights.
Russian authorities have reason to fear that the Chinese would mass-produce cheaper export versions of the Su-27 for the international market. Such exports would have great consequences for the volatile Indian sub-continent where it could drastically impact military balances.
The Chinese may have been persuaded to be reasonable in this regard with Russia showing it the stick with regard to futuristic fighter programmes, such as the Su-33 carrier based version of the Su-27.
Russian officials downplayed the quality of the Chinese copy -the J-11B. "If we speak about the copy of the airplanes, I think that in this case, the original will always be better than a slightly modified copy," Pogosyan said. "The original made by the designer who developed the product is always better, and it is a better start for a new program with the original designer and developer than making a fake copy."
He also pointed out that it was difficult to deal with problems that copies threw up over their lifetime and it was only the original developer who knew best how to deal with such issues.
Security experts are not convinced that Russia will have persuaded China completely to shy away from developing the J-11B any further. Very likely, the Chinese may have agreed to play along till such time as their Su-33s have been delivered.
The Chinese Navy has begun construction of its first aircraft carrier and needs Russian technology and experience.