Despite holding the position as one of the world’s biggest economies, China seems unwilling to shed its reputation for producing cheap replicas. And one of their more ambitious copycat efforts may put a strain on Russia-China relations.
“This Chinese plane is simply a Russian design stuffed with local electronics,” says Maksim Pyadushkin from the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technology about the Chinese J11B jet’s resemblance to the Russian Su-27. “It’s a knock-off.”
Last year, Russian aircraft sales internationally topped $3 billion – second only to the US. But others too want a slice of the aviation pie.
Vadim Kozyulin, program director for conventional arms from the Russian Center for Policy Studies, says that fake Su-27s are widely offered in the world arms market. “Sooner or later, Russian arms traders will face competition from the Chinese colleagues,” he told RT.
China was given the design plans for the Russian fighter jet in 1995, when it promised to buy 200 kits and assemble them domestically. After building 100 planes, the Chinese said the Russian plane did not meet specifications, only for a copycat version soon to appear – “Made in China” – without copyright.
The threat from China is real, and it will be difficult for the Russian aviation industry to maintain its lofty position, and soar further unless it manages to better protect its intellectual rights and also find new ways of co-operating with its eastern neighbor.
Although it made its maiden flight over 30 years ago, the Su-27 remains the bedrock of the Russian air force, and is highly popular abroad.
“I don’t think anyone who’s flown on the SU-27 can ask for a different plane, unless we are talking about a new generation jet,” believes Lt. Colonel Andrey Alekseyev, Air Force Pilot. “It’s maneuverable and has a huge range.”
Some are calling for calm over the controversy. While the similarities between the two planes are clear, experts say the Chinese J11B does not have the latest Russian high-tech features and will be no match for it on the international market.
The best way to fight copyright violations is to be technologically ahead of your rivals, claims Maksim Pyadushkin from the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technology. “The biggest problem for Russia is that it has been living off the legacy of the Soviet Union, and soon its technology may no longer be the world leader,” he asserts.
Rather than a continuing dogfight over the copycat plane, it is possible that Russia and China may yet settle the matter amicably – at the highest political level. But in the shady world of international weapons copyright, similar cases are sure to follow.