Russia Can Breathe Easier with First Export Order for Irbis Radar and Su-35 Fighter

by C. Zachary Hofer, Electronics Analyst, Forecast International.

Su-35 Fighter

Sukhoi Su-35 Fighter. Source: Sukhoi

With the announcement of the first export order for the Tikhomirov-NIIP Irbis multimission radar, Russian officials can now breathe a little easier. The deal is part of a larger, $2 billion contract with China for 24 Sukhoi Su-35 fighters and mission systems. Through economy of scale, this deal will lower the radar’s lifetime acquisition and fielding costs.

The director general of Rostec, a Russian Federation state-owned holding company, confirmed the sale on November 18, but the groundwork for the deal was laid back in 2013, when the Su-35 was announced as available for international sale at the Paris Air Show. During the same month as the show (June), a Chinese military delegation visited the Russian city of Komsomolsk-na-Amure to reportedly learn more about the Su-35. The genesis of the deal, though, goes back even farther. In January 2013, before the Su-35’s public unveiling, Vice General Director Alexander Mikheev of Rosoboronexport told the press that an export contract might be signed at some point in 2014.

The first production-standard Irbis radars were delivered on board the first production-standard Su-35s in 2011. By the close of 2013, at least 22 aircraft (and Irbis radars) had been delivered to Russia under an initial August 2009 order for 48. However, while Russia was clearly committed to the aircraft and its radar, it was lacking an international customer. For a high-level fighter like the Su-35 to succeed, it must have at least one – and preferably more – export customers. Russia, which has been hit especially hard by the global downturn in oil prices, needed a foreign military to express interest.

With a sale to China confirmed and the Su-35 and its Irbis now proven exportable, officials can look forward to further sales, and even lower risks. The next most likely customer is the Indonesian Air Force. Indonesia has reportedly already decided to purchase the aircraft, but has yet to tender an award. Recent statements by Indonesian Minister of Defense Ryamizard Ryacudu, as reported by Russian news agency RIA Novosti, seem to point to an imminent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or even a contract.


For interested parties, Forecast International provides coverage of the Tikhomirov-NIIP Irbis radar in its Airborne Electronics Forecast and Radar Systems Forecast products, as well as in its Market for Airborne Radar Systems analysis.  A report on the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet is included in FI’s Military Aircraft Forecast book. Coverage of both the radar and fighter is included in various modules of Forecast International’s industry first, hourly updated Platinum Forecast System™ 2.0. Contact a member of the Forecast International sales team for more information.

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