Russian officials will not feature their Sukhoi Su-27 twin-engine fighter jets on display this year at the Farnborough International Air Show -- a move that marks a strategic departure from prior years for Russia, show officials said.
The Russian Su-27 fighter jets were at Farnborough last year, leading observers and analysts to presume that tensions in the Ukraine have led the Russians the scale back their presence this year. This year’s show outside of London will run July 14-20.
“With the continuing issues in the Ukraine, I don’t think there will be any Russian aircraft,” a Farnborough official told Military.com.
There will be a Russian pavilion and a Ukraine pavilion at the show, however, along with pavilions from numerous other countries, officials said.
“The Russian scale-back is a surprise because weapons like fighter jets are one of the few things the Russian seem to do well at. Their fighter jets are in demand around the world. You would think the Russian arms industry would want the opportunity to showcase their best products,” said Loren Thompson, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a Va.-based think tank.
Recently, the Iraq government bought Russian Su-25 fighters after the U.S. delayed the delivery of F-16s. U.S. officials said the delivery would be delayed until the Pentagon could measure the threat posted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Russian fighters were in abundance performing acrobatic airshows this past January at the Bahrain International Airshow, a trade show which takes place on an air base in Bahrain. The Russian display team, called the Russian Knights consisting of six Su-27s, performed at the show, Farnborough officials said.
“The Russians kind of push it to the limit with acrobatics,” an official explained.
As a maneuverable fighter aircraft, the high-speed fourth generation Su-27 plane is designed to rival the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 and F-16. The Su-27 can reach maximum speeds of 1,553 miles per hour and hit ranges greater than 2,000 miles. The aircraft entered the Soviet Air Force in the mid-1980’s.
“The Russians prefer to do extreme acrobatics to demonstrate how maneuverable their fighters are. As a result they have a significant number of crashes,” Thompson said.
The Chinese military will also be in attendance at the Farnborough Air Show, however, like the Russians they are not planning to bring fighter jets or participate in the air shows, show officials said.
“Chinese fighter development is significantly behind the Russians,” Thompson added.
Both Russia and China claim to be developing a fifth-generation stealth aircraft similar to the F-35. The Russians are developing the Sukhoi PAK FA, or T-50, fifth generation stealth aircraft and the Chinese are working on the J-20, a twin-engine stealth fighter.
The Joint Strike Fighter has already grabbed most of the headlines surrounding the air show after the U.S. announced the F-35 would make its first international flight at Farnborough. However, following the grounding the aircraft following a June fire, it appears the F-35 will miss the show.
“Neither the Russian or the Chinese have anything close to the F-35. The planes may resemble the F-35 but they don’t begin to approach the capabilities. They don’t have the same situational awareness and they don’t have the tactical communications options,” Thompson said.