Russia increases Su-35 production despite microchip ban

Despite constraints imposed by Western sanctions on the supply of critical components such as microchips and semiconductor parts, Russia is demonstrating its ability to not only maintain but potentially increase production of its state-of-the-art Su-35 fighter aircraft.

This claim is supported by careful satellite monitoring of the manufacturing facilities located in Komsomolsk-on-Amur in Russia’s remote Far East region.

The detailed evaluation was conducted by SpaceKnow, a leading Czech technology firm, which implemented its Advanced Image Intelligence application (IMINT). This tool, which integrates artificial intelligence, allows large-scale events to be analyzed around the world through the use of raw satellite data.

Using a special SpaceNow algorithm capable of automatically detecting and identifying aircraft, various high-resolution images provided by Planet Labs’ SkySat satellites were analyzed. The analysis covered the period from April 2020 to October 2023, revealing significant and surprising data.

Continued growth in Su-35 production: a detailed analysis

Su-35 fighter aircraft production

In 2020, attendance at the facilities was moderate, with only two aircraft identified at the plant. However, in 2021, a significant increase in the factory’s harbor capacity was evident, with records fluctuating between 11 and 16 combat aircraft at any one time.

The upward trend accelerated following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, at which time our system indicated an increase in Su-35 production. By April that year, the count had increased to 19 units and, by October, experienced a significant jump to 30 fighters arranged in a systematic manner next to the assembly facilities.

This trend continued throughout 2023, with satellite images revealing the presence of 31 Su-35 fighters at the plant in September. The most recent image, dated October 2023, shows 29 planes ready to take off in the sky.

Although SpaceKnow indicates that determining exact production quantities is complex, they suggest that the new fighters are likely to be stored near manufacturing areas. This analysis is enriched by observations of aircraft in various stages of completion, some of which appear to be awaiting transfer or completion.

This analysis is in line with an in-depth study by the United States’ Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), which estimates Russia’s continued production of about 30–35 new Su-35 fighters in recent months. These findings suggest that Russia may currently have around 114 Su-35s, at least theoretically.

Russian strategies to overcome sanctions and expand Su-35 production

Su-35 fighter aircraft production

Recently, the deputy general director of the state conglomerate Rostec, which includes manufacturer Sukhoi, made bold statements about increasing production of the Su-35 fighter aircraft, emphasizing the ambitious goal of “doubling” it. “Our committed team works tirelessly across various shifts, under the careful monitoring of our leaders, constantly striving to inspire and energize our workforce. “Rostec is completely dedicated to increasing weapons production,” Vladimir Artyakov said during an interview with the state channel “Rossiya-24.” It is important to highlight Iran’s interest in acquiring 24 units of Su-35, a batch that was originally destined for Egypt.

Reports from British military sources indicate that, since the start of hostilities against Ukraine, Russia has lost at least five of these fighters, including one incident where it is suggested that they Have accidentally damaged your own aircraft.

In a February 7 speech, President Vladimir Putin stressed the vital importance of modernizing the Russian Air Force, a massive project that requires full commitment. “The ability to develop and produce a wide range of next-generation aircraft distinguishes a special group of nations, among which Russia occupies a leading position,” he said, citing the TASS agency.

Flexibility and adaptability in aeronautical development

Su-35 fighter aircraft production

Despite sanctions imposed by the West that limit Russia’s access to essential components such as microchips and semiconductors, there is conclusive evidence that the country can not only maintain, but potentially expand, production of advanced combat aircraft such as the Su-35. Has succeeded in increasing from.

Experts say large quantities of these chips are required to build specific fighter aircraft, which are essential for critical functions ranging from radar and flight control systems to communications and navigation, including image processing, guidance, link data, Display systems and other important cockpit components are also included. Abilities.

A recent report from Bloomberg highlights a shocking fact: Despite sanctions, about half of Russian imports of chips and electronic components come from manufacturers based in the United States or Europe. An analysis of Russian customs records from 2023 shows that Moscow has managed to obtain chips made in the US and the EU, transiting through third countries such as Turkey, Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates, which are subject to similar sanctions. Are not subject.

These countries act as intermediaries, facilitating transactions that allow Russia to access components from industry-leading companies such as Intel, AMD, Analog Devices, Infineon Technologies, STMicroelectronics and NXP Semiconductors, which have The total value is approximately $1.2 billion.

Global Supply Chain Challenges and Strategies

Iran bought Russian Su-35 fighter aircraft and Mi-28 helicoptersIran bought Russian Su-35 fighter aircraft and Mi-28 helicopters

Electronic component manufacturers have officially announced that they will cease all business interactions with Russia and launch an investigation into how their products may have entered the country illegally. As a detailed study by the financial magazine Nikkei Asia revealed, a common practice has been identified, particularly re-exporting from China.

Nikkei Asia’s detailed investigation examined Russian customs records from the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine to the end of 2022. The analysis revealed a total of 3,292 transactions, each worth at least $100,000. Notably, nearly 70% of these deals involved products from American microchip manufacturers, including giants such as Intel, AMD, and Texas Instruments.

Most of these technical inputs, about three-quarters, came from small and medium-sized companies based in Hong Kong or China. These Chinese companies became particularly relevant after the Russian invasion, which apparently facilitated the entry of technology from manufacturers such as French Omik into the Russian market. Omik is particularly important because of its production of integrated circuits needed for 5G network devices, satellites, and radar and guidance systems for combat aircraft and missiles.

This dynamic not only underlines the complexity of global supply chains and the difficulties in controlling the flow of critical technologies, but also how international sanctions can be undermined by alternative actors and trade routes. In this context, China’s influence emerges as an important factor in the delivery of advanced technologies to Russia, despite sanctions imposed by the West.

French intervention in networks of illegal technology exports to Russia and China

Will Russia sell Su-35 fighter aircraft to Iran?Will Russia sell Su-35 fighter aircraft to Iran?

In July last year, French authorities intervened decisively by arresting people involved in a suspected illegal technology export operation. Four individuals, two French nationals and two Chinese, who played key roles in a company, were arrested. This episode highlights the crackdown on unauthorized transfer of sensitive technology.

Digging deeper into the facts, in 2018, a Chinese businessman acquired a majority stake of 94% in Omick, a specialized company, through an investment fund set up in France. This acquisition gave him majority control and he later assumed the role of President. Under his leadership, the company began to build relationships with the Chinese defense industry.

Investigators learned that the businessman had hatched a plan to take over Omik’s intellectual property and export advanced technologies to China and Russia. This strategy involved the use of fraudulent billing and false technical documentation to ship chips to weapons entities under government control in the said countries. Some of these shipments were required to pass through China, India and Turkey before reaching their final destination in Russia.

There is evidence that, at least until March 2023, a person chosen by the Chinese owner was responsible for delivering chips to Russian customers in person or shipping them using aliases. At the same time, a new route was being established to move these products through a major company in Belgium, also owned by a Chinese businessman.


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