There was a huge lull in military trades between China and Russia around 2007 to 2008, because of their disagreements over IL-76s contract. Russia wanted more money after the contract was already signed and China did not want to pay up. It is pretty much like the recent spats between Russia and India over pretty much every system (after all, which contracts haven’t the Russians tried to rework after signing up?), except that China actually attempted to outlast the Russians. Eventually, when they realized that they messed up in their attempt to get the design straight out of Kazakhstan, they gave in to the renegotiations. During this time, numerous Chinese military projects were disrupted. New J-10s could not be produced, because WS-10A engine still wasn’t mature enough to mass equip a single engined aircraft and also they ran out of AL-31FNs. H-6Ks could not be produced, because the D-30KP2 contract was basically suspended. Any of the projects involving the IL-76 platform like the transport itself, KJ-2000 and ABL could not continue as usual. There were a lot of talks over Su-33, but nothing concrete came out of it.
In the most recent Kanwa article, it talked a lot about the contract negotiations between the two sides late last year. First, they signed a contract for 125 AL-31FNs for J-10. I think the cost for the engines went up from previous contracts ($3 million to $4 million), but the engine specs didn’t actually improve. So, they are still getting the baseline FN engines rather than FM-1 or FM-2 variant. We went through about a year or 2 where almost no J-10s were produced because of engine issues, so J-10 production should start again pretty fast. In the mean time, I think they’ve upgraded some of the earlier J-10s to the same standard as the recent ones. Secondly, they also revived the contract for 240 D-30KP2. The terms for the contract will be the same as it was signed for, but it looks like Russia might be taking a loss on this contract. The first batch of 30 to 40 D-30 engines will be delivered by the end of this year. At which point, XAC will finally be able to start the production of the long awaited H-6K. Apparently, which China first purchased the D-30 engines, the Russians weren’t even informed they were for H-6Ks, but thought it was spares for IL-76/78s. Either way, this time China has apparently informed the Russians that this engine will also be used for strategic reconnaissance/surveillance aircrafts. That would indicate that China is planning to build surveillance aircraft on the H-6 platform which would seem to interfere with the existing Y-8 programs. Or maybe, China will be using some of these engines for its own large transport platform in the future. Even if 1/3 of the 240 D-30s are used as spares for IL-76/78s, they would still have 160 engines left. If we use the standard ratio of 1 spare per 2 engines, they would still be able to produce over 100 H-6s. Based on what we’ve seen in the past, it’s unlikely they will build that many. So, I do think that some D-30s will be used at least in the beginning stage of China’s transport program.
The IL-76/IL-78 discussions are still undergoing right now with the Russians. I think they will get something done soon, because the domestic transport project still has years to go. The Il-476 production has yet to start in Russia, but I would imagine that China would want to get the first batch off the production line. They are also still having discussions over Su-33s. Russia has now raised the minimum of Su-33 orders from 24 to 40. So, China would have to purchase at least 40 Su-33s from Russia or Russia won’t make the deal. Russians are also discussing the possibility of upgrading Su-33s to use MK2 avionics. But really, why would China want to do that, when MK2 avionics is still horribly outdated. Outside of anti-shipping missions and the ability to fire R-77, an MK2 upgrade really would not provide that much help. And they are also trying to discuss with China about another MK2 purchase. I don’t even know what to say about that other than the factor that I’m not surprised China wasn’t interested in the talks.
Outside of this, the Russians also handed China a little of systems it believes that China copied. As I mentioned in previous posts, I agree with some of them and disagree with other ones. I don’t think they have signed Russia’s intellectual property agreement, but they really have no need to. As I have mentioned above, China really does not have that many more requirements after IL-76 and engines, so future military cooperation meetings might not end that fruitful for the Russians either.