The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is reportedly in talks with Russia for the purchase of “several dozen” Su-35 Flanker-E multi-role fighters from the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).
Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov reportedly told the Russian News Agency TASS that negotiations with Abu Dhabi are underway. As per Manturov, Russia will provide the Su-35’s technical documentation to the UAE in short order.
The Su-35 is the latest iteration of the venerable Sukhoi Flanker-series. The Su-35 is powered by two AL-41F1S turbofan engines, which provide an afterburning thrust of 142 kN each. With 12 external weapon stations, the Su-35 has a payload of 8,000 kg, which can be used to deploy air-to-air, air-to-surface, and special mission equipment. The Su-35 has a ferry range of 4,500 km.
Notes & Comments:
At the IDEX 2017, which took place in Abu Dhabi in February, the UAE signed an agreement with UAC to collaborate on the development of a next-generation lightweight fighter. Reports of a possible Su-35 sale suggest that the UAE’s engagement plans with Russia are not peripheral, but may potentially constitute a central aspect of Abu Dhabi’s long-term defence planning.
Technically, the Su-35 is a long-range heavyweight platform. If it joins the UAE Air Force’s fleet of medium-weight F-16E/F Block-60 Desert Falcons and Mirage 2000-5Mk2/-9, it would bolster the UAE’s deep-strike and air interdiction capabilities. Its procurement would also signify a shift in the UAE Air Force’s sourcing, which has been exclusively done from the U.S. and France.
Abu Dhabi is also pushing for a stronger local supply channel for defence items, as evident in the investment and growth of the Emirates Defence Industries Company (EDIC). EDIC has been a conduit for the supply of precision-guided munitions, armoured vehicles and small-arms to the Emirati armed forces. Considering the fighter development deal signed with UAC in IDEX, it will be worth observing how EDIC could figure in a potential Su-35 program.