MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik)
Several years ago, the media reported plans to sell between 30 and 50 Russian-made Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker-D carrier-borne fighters to China, which in turn planned to deploy them aboard its advanced aircraft carriers.
Subsequent media reports mentioned only 14 Su-33s and the mandatory purchase of two fighters for "familiarization" purposes.
But several wire services recently said the Su-33 deal did not go through.
China has already copied the hard-hitting Su-27 Flanker fighter and its engine parts, re-designating the plane as the Shenyang J-11 (JianJi-11), an advanced fourth-generation fighter now serving with the Chinese Air Force.
Russia was not very happy about such developments and probably got the impression that Beijing could copy the Su-33 after comparing its specifications with those of the T-10 prototype version.
After it had been receiving stockpiles of Soviet weapons and production equipment from the 1940s and until the 1960s, Beijing continued to manufacture their own technologically Soviet weaponry and equipment even after its relations with Moscow had gone sour in the 1960s.
China produced and upgraded all types of weapons, namely, firearms, mortars, artillery systems, armored fighting vehicles (including tanks), air defense systems and aircraft (including the famous Tupolev Tu-16 Badger intermediate-range bombers, which were re-designated as the Xian H-6s).
Beijing actively exported copies of Soviet weapons to the Third World, Albania, the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia and to other countries that were unable to buy Soviet or Western weaponry for political reasons. These types of weapons are still in use today.
From 1979 to 1989, China supplied 90% of mortars to Mujahedin insurgents battling Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
However, Beijing continued to copy Soviet weaponry even after relations with Moscow had normalized in the late 1980s. China displayed copies of modern cruise missiles, aircraft engines, the aforesaid Su-27 fighter and many other military-equipment models.
The signing of contracts for the delivery of large weapon batches that would meet Chinese demand in specific areas could serve as a guarantee against unauthorized copying. However, Beijing is no longer interested in such purchases. What's more, this option does not rule out the copying of previously supplied weapon systems and their subsequent exports to third countries.
Such exports can only be prevented by signing a legally binding Russian-Chinese intellectual property protection agreement.
But the experience of the last few years shows that very few countries pirating Russian weapons are inclined to respect Moscow's copyright.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.