The Russian Air Force received a total of 43 warcraft in the past year, according to local papers.
TASS, citing a source close to the Russian Defence Ministry, revealed that the list included:
- 16 Su-34s, an all-weather supersonic fighter-bomber;
- 10 Su-35s, a new version of the super-maneuverable Su-27 fighters;
- 17 Su-30SMs, a variant of the Su-30MKI produced by Irkut Corp with upgrades in radar, communications, friend-or-foe identification, ejection seats, etc.
It also received six Yak-130s advanced jet trainers, which observers say they can be swiftly converted into light-attack and reconnaissance aircraft, plus a number of An-148 transport jets and modernized Il-76 strategic airlifters, according to the Moscow-based research institute Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade.
All up, the Russian Air Force – which maintains a fleet of over 4,000 aircraft, second only to the United States – got a further 57 fighters and jets.
Over the past decade, the Russian Air Force has received more than 500 planes and jets. To put things in perspective, that figure equals to the entire fleet of a medium-sized air force, like that of Spain or Australia.
China and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force never reveal changes to the size of its fleet, but the China-based military website Northern Defence said the force may have received around 100 aircraft in 2017.
But that does not mean the PLAAF is set to surpass its Russian counterpart in fleet size or conventional air combat capabilities.
Chinese experts have urged people to be rational when gauging the gap between the two forces, noting that the PLAAF still procures Su-35s, Su-30SMs, as well as the “fourth++ generation” jet fighter MiG-35s that just rolled off the assembly line by Russian warplane maker Mikoyan.
The Russian defense industry has been scraping by with tepid orders from home and abroad. Mikoyan, Sukhoi and other contractors only manufactured some 80 warplanes – but they have the capacity to build about 130 planes a year.
The good news for Moscow is that domestic and overseas orders for MiG-35s and other new and modernized models are gradually increasing for this year and beyond.
But their Chinese counterparts like Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corp, Shenyang Aircraft Corp and Chengdu Aerospace Corp, maker of the PLA’s fifth-generation super-fighter J-20, have limited capacities and have long been stretched by Beijing, which wants them to churn out more fighters and bombers.
There have been rumors that the Chengdu plant is lagging behind schedule in assembling J-20s since the fighter was officially deployed earlier last year.
More missions and flyovers also mean quicker wear and tear: the maintenance demand for squadrons of fighters, bombers and spy planes following the PLA’s bulked up blue-sea patrolling and stunts such as circumnavigating Taiwan also put pressure on the nation’s defense industry.