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These Are Seriously Interesting Developments
Following joint participation in the massive Vostok 2018 military exercises, which involved over 300,000 personnel from both countries alongside Mongolia and vast quantities of equipment including combat aircraft, Russia has reportedly invited China’s People’s Liberation Army to participate in the MAKS 2019 International Aviation and Space Show. MAKS has been one of the world’s foremost air shows since 1992, and is used to display the latest achievements of Russian military aviation. Participation of a foreign partner remains unprecedented, and provides China with an effective forum in which to display its own advanced new combat jets. The East Asian state has reportedly accepted the proposal to participate, according to Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov. The minister stated regarding the development: "We will change the format of the International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS for the first time. We offered China to become a partner country. Colleagues agreed and accepted our invitation.”
China’s participation in MAKS will mark the latest in several landmarks demonstrating growing bilateral cooperation with Russia in the military field, which alongside a growing economic interdependence and cooperation in foreign policy affairs has been perceived has a major threat by Western powers. China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force is expected to dispatch its new J-20 air superiority fighters and J-10C elite light fighters to the airshow, possibly accompanied by the J-31 stealth jet which is scheduled to enter service in 2019. While the bulk of the country’s air fleet is comprised of fighters derived from the Russian Su-27 design, these new aircraft are distinct in their appearance and will likely be a sight to behold flying in formation alongside Russian Su-57 and Su-35 jets over Moscow.
It remains a possibility that Chinese pilots will fly Russian fighter jets such as the Su-35 or Su-30 which are operated by both countries, or vice versa, as a show of trust between the two powers. China has notably carried out similar such symbolic joint flights with the Pakistani Air Force in the past, and with both countries eager to demonstrate the strength of their defence ties and closeness of cooperation it remains a considerably possibility. With both countries' armed forces operating highly interoperable hardware, an example being the extensive Russian assistance in developing the latest Chinese air to air missiles and Chinese fighters' ability to deploy Russian made munitions such as the R-27, this is set to better facilitate close cooperation in future