A media investigation into the use of 2,000 foreign-made parts in Russian Su fighter jets

Despite severe Western sanctions aimed at shutting off supply lines, Russia continues to receive sanctioned products, such as microchips, through third-party countries, feeding its military machine.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s investigation project Schemes uncovered that Russian Sukhoi (Su-type) fighter jets purportedly contained over 2,000 foreign-made electronic components on April 17, mostly from Japan and the United States.

RFE/RL reports that Ukrainian intelligence sources, in partnership with the Independent Commission Against Corruption, supplied a list of foreign-made parts found in Russian Su-27SM3, Su-30SM, Su-34, Su-35S, and Su-57 fighter jets.

Russian loopholes for sanction circumvention 

In the investigation by Skhemy, in collaboration with the Independent Anti-Corruption Commission (NAKO), it was revealed that Russia extensively utilizes electronic components from U.S. firms like Texas Instruments and Analog Devices, as well as from Japan’s Murata, in its Su fighter jets. 

Despite Murata’s stringent export controls and advisories against using their products in weaponry, imports of their parts to Russia surged—rising by 38% in 2022 and an additional 12.7% in 2023. U.S. companies have declared these supplies to Russia as unauthorized. Skhemy has reached out to Murata for comments and is waiting for a response.

According to the investigation, intermediary suppliers in Hungary, Cyprus, Turkey, China, and Russia reportedly distributed Western electronic components to Russian companies.

The report also reveals that Russian-based distributors tied to Russia’s military-industrial complex have avoided sanctions.

The foreign-made components are supposedly positioned in the aircraft’s nose and middle part and are principally used for “navigation and missile guidance systems, electronic warfare means, and communication between aircraft and control points.”

Threat of supplying Russia with electronic parts

These fighters carry missiles and bombs, which Russia is actively using in its war against Ukraine, and the Russian army receives new planes regularly. The Su can launch aerial bombs such as the KAB-500 or KAB-1500, as well as guided missiles like the X-59 and its enhanced variant, the X-69.

Russian Su-type aircraft are actively utilized to strike Ukrainian cities, launching guided missiles and aerial bombs targeting the population and essential infrastructure.

Harsher sanctions to halt Russia’s supplies

Electronics typically travel a long way from the manufacturer to the factories that assemble fighter jets. Due to the tightening of sanctions restrictions, more and more intermediaries are appearing in this supply chain, both abroad and in Russia, often newly established Russian firms. So, Russian factories receive parts that are critical for fighter jets, and the Western manufacturer typically has no control over where its products end up.

Last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that Russian missile attacks on Kyiv involved an estimated 1,500 foreign-made components.

Kyiv’s partners have attempted to limit the Kremlin’s ability to evade international sanctions. One of the EU’s most recent sanctions packages contained a ban on third-country businesses re-exporting sensitive products to Russia.

NAKO plans to hand over the list of 2,000 parts that make up the “stuffing” of Russian Sukhoi fighter jets to international partners, institutions involved in sanctions and exports, as well as government officials and MPs at various levels.

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