BEIJING, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- Defying its tradition of keeping China at a distance of its advanced weapons, Russia has signaled its intent to sell its latest model of Su-35 jet fighter to China.
"We are ready to work with the Chinese partners in this direction," said Alexander Mikheyev, the deputy director of the Russian government export agency Rosoboronexport. Mikheyev made the statement to Moscow's RIA-Novosti news agency.
His remarks came on the sidelines of China's ambitious Zhuhai Airshow 2010, staged at the Guangdong province and featuring a record number of companies exhibiting aircraft and aviation technology.
Powered by two 117S engines with thrust vectoring, the Su-35 Flanker E mixes high maneuverability with the capability of engaging several air targets at once, using both guided and unguided missiles and weapons systems.
The multirole fighter is expected to roll off assembly lines by the end of the year, with the first batch set for China between 2010 and 2015. Local media have indicated that the order includes 48 aircraft.
Mikheyev told RIA-Novosti that Russia and China were engaged in the initial stages of talks and would discuss the "features of the export variant of the Su-35 and how to integrate it with previously supplied Su-30 fighters and the locally assembled Su-27."
Variants of the model have been offered to India, Malaysia, Algeria, Brazil and Venezuela since 2008. No deals though, have been signed.
Defense News quotes a Rosoboronexport official saying that the contract would "mark a departure from recent stagnation in Russian arms sales to China." Throughout this period China eyed advanced Russian weapons, but bar a few samples, Moscow refused to deliver fearing that China would copy the technologies.
China's orders for jets are expected to soar over the next decade. The biggest demands recorded at the air show included small passenger aircraft, with orders for an estimated 505 planes anticipated in the next 20 years.
Reaping much of the gain is Brazil's Embraer, the world's largest maker of regional aircraft.
"China's booming economy fosters the development of its regional aviation market, which generates great opportunities for players in the aviation industry, said Guan Dongyuan, president of Embraer China.
Still, at the air show, military drones drew the lion's share of the attention. As many as 25 different types were featured in the show, with one of them inducing rain as a shield.
China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition is the only international aerospace trade show in China that is endorsed by the Chinese central government. The biannual arms exhibition has been held in Zhuhai since 1996.