The Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper said that China and Russia had been in negotiations on the sale of 50 of the Su-33 Flanker-D fighters, to be used on future Chinese aircraft carriers, since 2006, but that the talks collapsed recently over China's request for an initial delivery of two aircraft for a "trial."
Russian Defense Ministry sources confirmed that the refusal was due to findings that China had produced its own copycat version of the Su-27SK fighter jet in violation of intellectual property agreements.
In 1995, China secured a $2.5-billion production license from Russia to build 200 Su-27SKs, dubbed J-11A, at the Shenyang Aircraft Corp.
The deal required the aircraft to be outfitted with Russian avionics, radars and engines. Russia cancelled the arrangement in 2006 after it discovered that China was developing an indigenous version, J-11B, with Chinese avionics and systems. The decision came after China had already produced 95 aircraft.
This time, Russia refused the Chinese offer even after Beijing had offered to buy 14 Su-33 aircraft, saying that at least 24 jets should be sold to recoup production costs.
However, the Moskovsky Komsomolets said that the Su-33 deal may be reviewed later because China desperately needs carrier-based aircraft to equip its first indigenous 48,000-ton aircraft carrier, due to be built by 2011. Beijing has also announced plans to build a nuclear-powered aircraft-carrier by 2020.
Chinese media recently quoted China fleet commander Adm. Xu Hongmeng as saying: "China will very soon have its own aircraft carrier."
The Su-33 is a carrier-based multi-role fighter, which can perform a variety of air superiority, fleet defense, air support and reconnaissance missions. The aircraft entered service with the Russian Navy in 1995 and are currently deployed on board the Nikolai Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.
Russian Su-33 naval fighters are significantly cheaper than any similar foreign models, such as the French Rafale-M, or the U.S F-35C or the F/A-22N Sea Raptor.