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Report on the Zhuhai Airshow
November 3-8, 2002

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by Richard Fisher, Jr.
Published on November 30th, 2002
ARMS SHOW REPORTS

Introduction

From November 3-8 the People's Republic of China (PRC) held its 4th bi-annual Zhuhai Airshow. All of the airshows in this series have been held at an international airport outside the city of Zhuhai, which is not far from Hong Kong. The Zhuhai Airshow is sponsored by the PRC's main aerospace companies. It is also sponsored by the PRC's People's Liberation Army (PLA), even though active PLA aircraft and missiles are not featured. Nevertheless, these airshows have traditionally provided perhaps the only public access to the PRC's aerospace sector, providing useful information on current and future military programs. As such, they constitute a notable exception to the PLA's traditional refusal to allow useful military transparency.

Subdued Event

When the Chinese Communist Party delayed its Party Congress to mid-November 2002, it was put in conflict with the Zhuhai airshow. Party leaders decided to downgrade the airshow's public profile so it would not overshadow the Party Congress. This resulted in the cancellation of visible air displays and cancellation of public attendance. This likely forced the airshow organizing committee to make a large financial sacrifice, which raises questions about the Zhuhai show's future viability. There have long been rumors that the Zhuhai show might either be cancelled, or be taken to Shanghai by competing business groups.

But in the pavilions there was much new and useful information. This Zhuhai show provided new information on the PLA's next nuclear ICBM, bomber modifications, possible anti-satellite weapons, its new radar satellite, and future combat aircraft. The show also illustrated how the PLA is making the transition from a command economic system for military industries, to one more influenced by market forces. There is a new emphasis on profit as a motivating factor to spur innovation. And the Russian contribution to all PRC aerospace sectors remains strong. The new weapons the PLA is producing will pose increasing threats to the democracies of Asia and to the United States. Taiwan is most threatened as the PRC is modernizing the PLA for the primary purpose of conquering Taiwan. As a consequence there is greater pressure on Washington to ensure that Taipei has the needed weapons to ensure deterrence on the Taiwan Strait, and to modernize U.S. forces in Asia to do the same.

This report is divided into:

1. Emergence of Market Forces
2. Space Systems
3. Missiles
4. Aircraft and Weapons
5. Army Systems

This Center for Security Policy report and its pictures were compiled by Richard Fisher, an Asian Security Studies Fellow with the Center, and who has the distinction of having attended all four Zhuhai airshows. For additional information on the Zhuhai Show it is suggested that you visit Hui Tong's useful Chinese Military Aviation web page.

Emergence of Market Forces

When viewed broadly, perhaps the most important observation to come from the 4th Zhuhai Airshow is that the PRC is succeeding in fostering competition and innovation in its aerospace sector. This started with 1998 reforms in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) starting designed to reduce its non-military economic activity and to restructure the military-industrial sector to promote greater competition. At Zhuhai one could observe a greater degree of market awareness, an eager search for any investment, a spirit of greater internal competition, and a willingness to take risks.

These activities and attitudes show that the "command" or socialist economic system in the military sector is receding, and the PRC aerospace sector will be able to increasingly compete in a global market-and develop world class weapons. Competition is already being employed by the PLA elsewhere: there are now two competing families of wheeled heavy armored fighting vehicles; two heavy jeep models copied from the U.S. HUMVEE; and competition between combat ship builders. Such competition may also indicate that the PLA in the future will be unwilling to fund such an excess of military programs. For example, the PLA is now funding 8 or 9 aircraft production programs plus three development programs, at a time when the US can barely afford three new combat aircraft programs.

 
 
Chengdu J-7G: Revealed this past summer, the J-7G is but the latest of Chengdu's variants of a 50-year old Soviet jet fighter design. While updated with modern radar, it is limited in its range, weapons load and by an unstealthy design. Its only real advantage for the PLA is that it can be produced now. Photo: via Ding Sheng web page.

In the aerospace sector the command/capitalist contrast demonstrated by the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) and the new Beijing SuperWing Company. CAC is a classic "state owned enterprise" that is still producing versions of its J-7 jet fighter, a highly modified version of the Mig-21, a 50-year old Soviet design. Chengdu's most important fighter, the J-10, began development in the late 1960s, just started flying in 1998, and still reflects many 1970s design concepts. Chengdu has never been allowed to "fail," and as such, failed products dominate this company.

 
Beijing Superwing CY-1 multi-role fighter concept. This Company sells concepts, and represents a new model for PLA weapons development. Photo: RD Fisher
Projected Specifications:
Length: 14.08m
Span: 8.32m
Engine Power: 7000kg
T-O Weight: 8500kg
T-O Distance: 300-400m
Landing Dist: 400-500m
Speed: Mach 1.6-1.8
Payload: 3000kg
 

In contrast, Beijing SuperWing is a five-year old company that simply deals in aircraft design concepts. Its main product at the show was the CY-1 multi-purpose delta-canard fighter that uses a novel "side plate" to produce a stable flight performance without the need for expensive computer-driven fly-by-wire systems. If a success, the CY-1 could combine the combat capability of the F-16 with a very short take-off and landing capability. The company so far has only produced a radio controlled model of the CY-1 and company officials made clear that they were at the show to find investors. Nevertheless, a company official stated that the PLA was "very interested" in this concept.

Another view of the CY-1 shows the unique "side-plate" structures in blue, above the wing between the front canard and rear horizontal stabilizer. Some at the show were skeptical that it could achieve its design goal of avoiding expensive fly-by-wire equipment. Photo: RD Fisher

An official from the CY-1's likely producer, the Guizhou Corp., was dismissive of the CY-1's promise to avoid fly-by-wire systems. But even if the CY-1 is an aerodynamic failure, its still represents a success for the PLA. First, an upstart company has been allowed to challenge the state-owned dinosaurs. And if the CY-1 does fulfill its promise, it will be a very attractive fighter that will compete with all of Chengdu's and Guizhou's product line. And if it funded by domestic or foreign investors the PLA will be most pleased. Even if it fails there will be a critical bonus: the people in this company will have learned valuable lessons that can be applied to a future product or to their next job.



Space Systems

Confirmed: Since at least 1997 the PLA has been cooperating with Russia's NPO Machinostroyenia to develop a small-bus radar satellite. NPO Mash advertises a less-than-1 meter resolution. To be launched in 2005, this is a critical advance for PLA's C4ISR. Photo: RD Fisher

New "Russian" Radarsat

Perhaps the most important space related revelation was the new DFH Corporation intends to launch the PRC's first radar satellite by 2005. A DFH official stated that their HJ-1C radarsat was derived from a Russian NPO Mashinostroyenia radar satellite design. A competing radar satellite design has also emerged from the PRC's 863 defense high-technology development program that appears to have been influenced by Canada's RADARSAT. At the show a DFH officials stated that cooperation with NPO Mash started five years ago, or about 1997-when this analyst first reported such cooperation following the Moscow airshow. This official also stated that the new radarsat will only have a 20m resolution, saying that the Russian would not sell their most modern kit. This can be taken with considerable skepticism, as it is unlikely that the PRC will forego the less than 1m resolution capability of NPO Mash's radarsat.

HJ-1 optical (top) and HJ-1C radar satellites. By 2010 the PLA hopes to have a constellation of 4 optical and 4 radarsats. These will support precision targeting requirements for PLA missiles and aircraft. Photo: RD Fisher via DFH Co. brochure.

The HJ-1C will be launched with two new HJ-1A/B optical satellites in 2005. These new optical imaging satellites can be expected to match the near 1m resolution of the radar satellites. By 2010 there will be a constellation of 4 HJ-1C radarsats and 4 HJ-1A/B optical reconnaissance satellites. The new radarsat will weigh 700kg. However, the DFH official said that development is proceeding on a smaller radarsat with a 20kg antenna and which may weigh about 100kg. Both types of satellite will be launched into polar orbits.

While this new imaging satellite constellation is advertised for "disaster and environment monitoring," it will also give the PLA its first modern space reconnaissance system that can penetrate cloud cover and find ships at sea. Imaging data from both types of satellites will be collated to produce accurate targeting data for missiles and attack aircraft. It can also be expected that the PRC will sell its images and targeting data to allied and rogue states with which it maintains friendly relations.

Future TDRS. This initial tracking and data relay satellite may be deployed after 2005, along with a larger model. These satellites will better enable the PLA to control satellites, manned missions, and possible anti-satellite operations. Photo: RD Fisher via China National Space Administration

Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS)

The PRC revealed two types of tracking and data relay satellites in an English language book China's Space Activities, by the China National Space Administration. One, a smaller system based on the smaller DHF-3 communication satellite bus, and one larger based on the DFH-4 bus. This is significant because the PRC will be able to relay orbital information without an expensive and politically difficult global network of ground based control and tracking stations. For example, its satellite tracking station in the South Pacific island state of Kiribati sparked controversy during recent elections. With TDRS the PRC will be able to better control satellites, future manned space vehicles and anti-satellite weapons, and obtain faster access to data. One official indicated that the TDRS would not be developed until the next five year plan.

New "Pioneer"

New Mobile SLVs: (l-r) KT-2; KT-2A; KT-1, which in turn correspond to the DF-31; DF-31A and the DF-21 missiles. As China has done for its liquid fueled missiles, these solid-fueled space launch vehicles will help fund the development of new ICBMs. These SLVs will also deliver future anti-satellite weapons. Photo: RD Fisher

One of the most important revelations of the 4th Zhuhai show was the Katzouie (KT) or "Pioneer" series of mobile solid fuel space-launch vehicles (SLVs), produced by the Aerospace Solid-propellant Launch Vehicle Co. Their purpose is to launch micro-satellites. The KT-1 is designed to service low-earth orbit (LEO) missions, the larger KT-2 for geosyncronous (GTO) and polar orbit missions, and the even larger KT-2A for polar orbits missions. The KT-1 was test launched for the first time on September 15, 2002. However, the test was unsuccessful due to control issues. The next KT-1 test will take place in 2003. The new third and fourth stages will not be ready to fabricate a total KT-1 SLV until 2005. Engineers state that the KT-1 will only launch one 100kg size satellite.

The KT-2 is expected to enter service by 2005. The KT-2 can launch one 300kg satellites. The larger KT-2A has a wider second stage than the KT-1, and uses two smaller solid fueled boosters. The KT-2A has an advertised payload of 400kg and company officials say it can launch up to three separate payloads. This SLV is also expected to be ready by 2005.

While the KT series will clearly pose a new challenge in the commercial space launch business, these missiles will also serve military missions. The May 2000 founding of this company was attended by General Liu Huaqing, former Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and General Huang Cisheng, then Deputy Commander of the Second Artillery-which control the PLA's strategic and regional missiles. These SLVs will fire new small satellites for reconnaissance and communication missions and they will also launch new anti-satellite weapons. The PRC's micro and nanosatellite programs also make possible the development of a satellite kill vehicle. The mobility of the KT series of SLVs means they can be pre-positioned at the required interception course. It can be expected that that KT-1 will be used to target low-earth orbit satellites and that the KT-2 and KT-2A will be used to target polar-orbit satellites.

Missiles

DF-31 transporter-erector-launcher (TEL). Seen very likely just before the October 1999 military parade in which this new mobile solid-fueled ICBM was revealed to the world. The 12,000km range DF-31A will likely be moved and launched by a similar TEL.

DF-31/DF-31A Details

In one of the more useful disclosures of this Zhuhai show, an official from the Aerospace Solid-propellant Launch Vehicle Co. stated clearly that the KT-2 SLV is derived from the DF-31 ICBM. This same official also acknowledged previous speculation that the KT-1 was derived from the DF-21 medium-range ballistic missile. As such, the KT-2 model provides perhaps the most revealing glimpse of the new DF-31 ICBM, which so far has been shielded from public view. Based on KT-2 visual and published data, it can be stated that the DF-31 is a three stage missile in which the secondary stages are of lesser diameter than the first stage. This missile also demonstrated the PRC's advances in solid fuel rocket technology in that the engine has a large single nozzle. In contrast, the KT-1/DF-21 uses four separate nozzles in its first stage. The KT-2's 300kg payload and ability to carry one payload also indicates that the DF-31s may only carry one warhead.

In addition, the new KT-2A polar orbit SLV very likely is derived from the future 12,000km range DF-31A. The existence of this new PLA ICBM has been disclosed by the Pentagon only within the last year. The KT-2A differs in that it has a larger second stage that is equal diameter to the first. The missile has apparently replaced the DF-41 mobile ICBM program, which has experienced developmental difficulties. This KT-2A also has a 300kg payload and the ability to carry three separate payloads-which may mean that the DF-31A will be able to carry three nuclear warheads. That the PRC has been developing multiple warhead systems for many years is well known, especially in the context of their desire to defeat future US missile defenses. If, as advertised, the KT-2A is made ready for use by 2005, then it is possible that the DF-31A could be deployed on or about 2005 as well.

New Cruise Missile Carrier: For the first time the PLA revealed its converted H-6 cruise missile carrier. Reports indicate up to 25 are to be converted to carry up to 4 new cruise missiles. These may be new land attack or anti-ship cruise missiles. This could give the PLA Air Force a long-range first strike role in a Taiwan campaign. Photo: RD Fisher via AVIC 1 video

New Cruise Missiles on H-6 Bomber

The AVIC 1 pavilion featured a company video in which one could catch a brief glimpse of an H-6 bomber with four missiles on the wings. The missiles appeared to be of a new type but it was not possible to identify them with certainty. It has been previously reported that up to 25 H-6 bombers were being modified to carry a new LACM based on the C-601, but with a TV-based guidance system. Representatives of the 3rd Academy produced wry smiles when asked if an older C-601 style missile had been converted to LACMs. The missiles in the AVIC video, however, did not appear to be C-601 derivatives. It is likely that these are a new type of LACM or anti-ship missile.

YJ-82 (C-802) Anti-Ship Cruise Missile This 120km turbojet powered anti-ship cruise missile very likely forms the basis for the YJ-83 (C-803), which is reported to have a 250km range when launched from an aircraft. Photo: RD Fisher

PRC Cruise Missile Hints

For the first time at four Zhuhai shows representatives of the 3rd Academy, which develops and makes cruise missiles, agreed to answer questions. While they would not confirm a land attack cruise missile (LACM) program, they did say that a PRC LACM would have multiple navigation systems. They also revealed that they had mastered and tested terrain-matching (TERCOM) navigation technology. Reports that the PLA has recently tested the YJ-83, a 250km range development of the C-802 cruise missile, indicate that a longer-range LACMs may soon enter PLA service.

JH-7A fighter bomber with new supersonic missile First revealed at the 2000 Zhuhai show, this year a new ramjet-powered supersonic attack missile (inside pylon) featured reconfigured air intakes. This missile can likely perform anti-ship and ground attack missions. Photo: RD Fisher

The 3rd Academy reps also noted their interest in developing a high-speed cruise missile. They were aware of Russian hypersonic cruise missile test programs and of those in the US. They were also aware of supersonic cruise missile programs in Russia, the US and Taiwan. They claimed that they lacked sufficient government support to pursue supersonic and hypersonic cruise missile projects. However, they did say that if they were to develop a new high speed cruise missile that they would prefer a nose-intake configuration. This is similar to a US supersonic cruise missile program and the Russian YAKHONT supersonic cruise missile.

Kh-31 Mockup An aircraft weapon pylon maker featured a mockup of a Russian Zvezda Kh-31 ramjet-powered missile. It is produced in anti-ship and anti-radar versions and the PLA very likely has both. Photo: RD Fisher

They also said that they would be interested in co-producing the Russian Kh-31 ramjet powered anti-ship/anti-radar missile. A Kh-31 shape was displayed on a Chinese wing pylon by a pylon manufacturing company. Russia has released pictures of a Su-30MKK equipped with the SORBITSYA ECM pod firing a Kh-31 missile, most likely the anti-radar Kh-31P.

Kh-59MK: One Russian source noted that this new 288km range Russian anti-ship missile is now in the PRC. It will likely equip the new naval version of the Su-30MKK and give the PLA Navy a new weapon against U.S. carrier groups. Photo: RD Fisher

Kh-59MK in the PRC

According to a Russian source the Raduga Kh-59MK, a 288km range active guided anti-ship cruise missile, is now in the PRC. This missile was revealed for the first time at the 2001 Moscow airshow and its designation provided a clear link to the Su-30MKK program. The range meshes well with the 300km range of the radar to equip the Su-30MK2. It is interesting to note that the PLA is acquiring this long-range anti-ship missile as it also develops a 250km version of the C-802 turbojet powered cruise missile.

Aircraft and Weapons

Possible New 5th Generation Figher. A glimpse of this wind tunnel test model was seen in the AVIC 1 pavilion video. It seems to conform with 1996 ONI projections for a next generation PLA fighter showing a F-15 like fighter with twin engines. This model shows more complex stealth shaping and indicates internal weapons carriage. Photo: RD Fisher via AVIC 1 video

New Type Fighter

The AVIC-1 video also revealed the possible existence of a new advanced PLA fighter program. Shown as a wind tunnel test model, this possible fighter looks very similar to the US F-22 fighter. This program is reported to be from the Shenyang Aircraft corporation. It has stealth shaping and a broad fuselage with a flat bottom. This likely indicates the fighter will utilize internal weapon carriage to preserve its stealthiness. The AVIC 1 video also featured a picture of PRC Central Military Commission Chairman Jiang Zemin operating an engine thrust vectoring system, which may also be featured on this aircraft. This program was first reported by the US Office of Naval Intelligence, which ONI termed "XXJ." The featured wind tunnel model provides some confirmation of such a program. However, it is not known when this fighter will be built.

Thrust Vectoring test device This picture shows CMC Chairman Jiang Zemin manipulating the control for a jet engine thrust vectoring device. This system will reportedly be employed by future versions of the Chengdu J-10 and by Shenyang's future stealthy fighter program. Photo: RD Fisher via AVIC 1 video

Chengdu Projects

Combat aircraft manufacturer Chengdu was able to feature its FC-1 fighter in full scale mock up form, but did not display its more well known J-10, save for a brief glimpse on an AVIC-1 pavilion video. The FC-1 is due to fly for the first time in 2003 and Pakistan has ordered 150. Chengdu would not say whether the PLAAF would order any, though Pakistan is anxious that it does so to support this program. The FC-1 will be armed from the start with the active-guided SD-10 air-to-air missile (AAM). The mockup illustrated the U.S. Lockheed Martin F-16's influence of the FC-1, and Pakistan is known to have shared at least one its F-16s with the PLA.

Chengdu FC-1 multi-role fighter. Subject to a PRC-Pakistan development program, the prototype is due to fly in 2003. For Pakistan it will feature an Italian GRIFO radar, the new SD-10 active-guided AAM and will be capable of delivering laser-guided bombs. It is not assured that the PLA Air Force will buy it, as they appear committed to Chengdu's J-10 fighter program. Photo: RD Fisher
Chengdu J-10 multi-role fighter This new fighter is now entering production. Its performance is comparable to a 1980s version of the U.S. F-16, which was both an inspiration and a technology source for the J-10. Chengdu officials were not pleased that J-10 could not be displayed at Zhuhai.

Chengdu officials were not pleased that its "secret" J-10 could not be displayed at Zhuhai. This fighter is slated to be a major program to include eventual production of 300 to 500. But Chengdu is anxious to advertise this fighter and promote foreign sales as it is competing against many other PLA fighter programs. Chengdu's nervousness is demonstrated in its collaboration in the release of many Internet-sourced photos of the J-10 that have essentially "declassified" this program. The reason it did not appear at Zhuhai was that its sensational story would have detracted from the Party Congress. Reports did emerge from the show indicating that a small number of J-10s have been assigned to a unit in the Nanjing Military Region near Taiwan, though it is not clear that this is an operational deployment. A Chengdu official also noted that the J-7G, the latest development of the J-7 line, would be a J-7E with a new radar. The official indicated that this could be an upgrade program.

Louyang Project 129 or SD-10 active-guided AAM. By combining a Russian radar and data link with a PRC missile motor, Louyang has produced a new active-guided AAM that is better than the Russian R-77, which the PLAAF also uses. Photo: RD Fisher

More SD-10 and Short-Range AAM Details

Sources noted that the PLAAF has conducted about 20 test flights for the new Louyang SD-10 (Project 129) active-guided air-to-air missile (AAM). The tests included full missile self-guided to target missions. Louyang vociferously denied reports that the SD-10's radar and data link are from the Russian AGAT bureau, insisting they were indigenous. Louyang also said that they are considering SAM and naval SAM variants of the SD-10. A brochure of the SD-10 exists but they were not distributing them. A Louyang official also noted that their new advanced short-range AAM would be smaller than existing PL-9 and PL-5 models, and would be helmet-sighted.

At least 68 Sukhois for PLA Navy. A high Sukhoi official stated that 28 naval attack versions of the Su-30MKK would be purchased by the end of 2002, with an expected 40 more to follow. This would give the PLAN the option of basing one Su-30 regiment with each of its three fleets. The Su-30MK3 is expected to carry a 300km range radar and be able to fully use the Kh-59MK missile. Photo: RD Fisher

Revealed: Sukhoi Su-30MK3

A high Sukhoi official confirmed reports that the Su-30MK2 is 1) being produced for the PLA Navy and 2) this model will be succeeded by the Su-30MK3 in future production batches. The Su-30MK2 is different from the PLA Air Force's Su-30MKK in that it has a more powerful radar and will be armed with long-range anti-ship cruise missiles. The Su-30MK3 will have an even better radar, mission avionics and possibly a more powerful engine. Sukhoi officials said that by the end of 2002 a contract will be signed for 28 Su-30MK2s. It was also stated that next the PLA would order up to 40 of the Su-30MK2 or Su-30MK3. This points to a very significant naval air strike buildup by the PLA Navy. At a minimum the PLA Navy could be planning on the flexibility to give each of its three major fleets a regiment of Su-30s. This number of dedicated naval strike Su-30s, when coordinated with submarine and ship strikes, significantly increases the PLA Navy's sea-denial capability, and increases the threat to US carrier groups based in the Western Pacific.

Shenyang J-11 This is a J-11, a Sukhoi Su-27SK produced from kit components made by the KnAAPO factory in Russia. The J-11 now has a better factory finish than Russian-made fighters. Photo: RD Fisher via Shenyang brochure

Sukhoi-Shenyang Coproduction Details

The same Sukhoi official also revealed new details about their co-production of Su-27SK (J-11) fighters with the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC). So far, SAC has assembled from KnAAPO produced kits, about "several dozen" aircraft. This could mean about 48 aircraft. Another official stated that this number could be 80-120, but that could also be an indication of the eventual end number of assembled aircraft. At the 2000 Zhuhai show a high SAC official stated that SAC would not produce all 200 aircraft stipulated in a 1996 contract. The same Sukhoi official expressed immense surprise in SAC's ability to improve its production quality in the last three years. The official confirmed that Russian engineers had to be brought in to correct significant production flaws for the first two J-11s. But he also noted that SAC has procured modern production equipment from Russia, Japan, Sweden and the US. With visible embarrassment, he stated that the production finish for the SAC produced fighters is better than that for Russian-made fighters.

New Guizhou UAV. The Guizhou Co. unveiled a new stealthy reconnaissance UAV called the WZ-2000. This updated a UAV concept revealed at the 2000 Zhuhai show. Officials stated that this UAV may fly in two years. It has a three hour endurance, but this is likely to improve as new engines are incorporated. Officials indicated this was mainly for optical and radar reconnaissance, but were willing to speculate that an armed version could be developed. Photo: RD Fisher
Another view of the WZ-2000 shows the V-tail similar to the U.S. Global Hawk. The engine placement also serves to reduce this UAV's infrared signature. Photo: RD Fisher

New Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

The WZ-2000 UAV has been reconfigured to a shape comparable to the US Global Hawk UAV. It has a bulbous fuselage nose to contain a satellite communication antenna. It also has much better stealth shaping and a V-tail configured to reduce infrared signature. An official stated that it was possible to develop an armed version but that the first versions would be for reconnaissance. The display model came with an advertised 3-hour endurance, but the company could make a longer-range version. Its swept wings also indicate it has a faster speed than the Global Hawk. A prototype could be ready in two years.














Guizhou FTC-2000. With this new trainer, due to fly in either 2003 or 2005, the PLAAF will acquire a modern lead-in trainer for its 4th generation fighters. The FTC-2000 may also form the basis for a twin-seat fighter bomber in that it will be capable of being equipped with modern radar, attack systems and cockpit displays to support precision guided weapons. Photo: RD Fisher

Trainer Competition

The PLA Airforce will likely have a new lead-in trainer for its 4th generation fighters in the form of the Guizhou Corporations FTC-2000. This twin-seat fighter combines the front fuselage of the FC-1 with a new wing. A company official expected that a first flight would take place in 2005 and claimed high PLAAF support. This official also disparaged the Hongdu Corporation's L-15 trainer concept as dependent on a foreign engine-which did not have an afterburner.


Shaanxi Y-8X. Intended to compete with the Lockheed C-130J.
Length: 36.8 m
Span: 42.8m
Max Weight: 81 tons
Range w/ 30t: 2500km
Range w/ 16t: 6680km

Photo: RD Fisher

Concept Aircraft

An interesting new concept aircraft was the Y-8X, which Shaanxi officials described as their attempt to compete with the US C-130J. It is a slightly larger but much modified Y-8, with 6-blade props and what appears to be a new wing. It can carry up to 30 tons of cargo. A company official said, however, that money was not there to pursue a serious program. Nevertheless, there are other reports that the Ukraine's Antonov bureau was indeed working with Xian to develop this new transport.

From the 2000 show, Chengdu displayed a model of its F-7MF concept aircraft. There was one indication that this aircraft had been test flown in 2002, but that was later denied by Chengdu to several people.

Also from the 2000 show, the MA-MPA or maritime patrol version of the MA-60 turboprop transport was again on display in model form. An official stated that the research for the MA-MPA had been completed but they were still waiting for a "customer," or a government order. This official said that the MA-MPA will also have an anti-submarine capability.

Army Systems

New Indigenous Helicopter. Revealed for the first time was the design for the PLA's indigenous 5-6 ton transport helicopter, which will also form the basis of a future heavy attack helicopter. This attack helicopter is expected to resemble the Eurocopter Tiger. Photo: RD Fisher

New 6-Ton Helicopter Revealed

Revealed in picture form was a projection for the PLA's new indigenous 5-6 ton transport helicopter. Previously referred to as the "Z-10," it is now known that this formerly very sensitive program includes a 5-6 ton Army transport helicopter, a civil transport version, and a 6-ton attack helicopter which will use a common dynamic and rotor system. The engine will come from Pratt-Whitney Canada, and the dynamic system benefits from advice from Italy's Agusta and Eurocopter. The heavy attack helicopter is expected to resemble the Eurocopter Tiger. The transport helicopter will resemble the Italian Agusta AB 139 medium-weight transport helicopter, which has also been selected by the U.S. Coast Guard as its next generation rescue helicopter.

Changhe Z-11W. This is a future armed version of the Z-11, which is a copy of the Eurocopter AS-350. It gives the PLA the option to produce a small and cheap attack helicopter to compliment the more expensive "Z-10" still in development. Photo: RD Fisher

Armed Z-11 Helicopter

Confirming a longstanding rumor, the Changhe Helicopter company is now building an armed version of its Z-11, or copy of the Eurocopter AS-350 Squirrel. It has been illustrated in a brochure as armed with anti-tank missiles or unguided rockets. This is significant because the PLA appears to be exercising an option to build many inexpensive attack helicopters as it also pursues its advanced "Z-10" heavy attack helo program. Large numbers of armed Z-11s could terribly complicate Taiwan's air defense requirements.

QW-4 Shoulder-launched SAM This poster was the only display that mentioned the advanced QW-4 with an infrared-imaging seeker. Photo: RD Fisher

New Shoulder SAMs

Revealed for the first time was the laser-guided QW-3, a two stage km range small SAM. Intended for vehicle or ship launch, it may also be developed for helicopter launch use. The PLA also displayed new variants of the older QW-2 shoulder-launched SAM. Also on display for the first time was the QW-4, a new infrared imaging (IIR) seeker equipped shoulder-launched SAM. IIR seekers make an infrared-guided missile immune to flares and other heat-based defenses an aircraft may employ.

Digital Soldier Systems. This is a third generation PLA digital voice-video transmission system. This company is working on an eyepiece monitor as well. When fully developed it will likely have a more elegant form. The PLA already uses such digital transmission systems with border guard units and these can be expected to be used by PLA Special Forces Units. Photo: RD Fisher

Digital Soldier Technologies

The WDT Co. displayed a personal digital camera and transmission system. It used a very small weather proof digital camera attached to a helmet and transmits what the soldier sees. This company also said they were working on an eyeglass monitor for the device. This digital communication system allows data to be digitally relayed from soldiers to commanders or up a digital chain of command. This digital rig was much more sophisticated than a system shown during an October 2000 exercise being employed by Special Operations troops. Nevertheless, such technologies show the PLA's interest in advanced soldier equipment similar to that envisioned by the U.S. Army's "Objective Force."

Micro Air Vehicles. The PLA unveiled this series of micro air vehicles designed to give small soldier units an organic "over-the-hill" reconnaissance system. A small digital video camera is in development for these UAVs, which can use radio control or computer program controls. Photo: RD Fisher

MAVs

The digital soldier rig takes on greater significance with the revelation that the PRC is developing soldier-use Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs). Powered by model aircraft engines, these hand-launched MAVs have been tested with micro-cameras. They are capable of being operated by radio or program controls. If procured for the Army, such MAVs would be able to give small units the ability to conduct local reconnaissance and call in supporting fire, reducing the need for larger numbers of troops to accomplish a given mission.

New Mobile Kitchen vehicle This lightweight mobile kitchen illustrates the PLA Army's stress on increasing its mobile logistic support capabilities. Photo: RD Fisher

Logistics

Other Army related systems included a new mobile kitchen and mobile digital communications vehicle based on foreign trucks. The PLA has devoted great effort and resources to upgrade its logistics capability. The mobile kitchen is light-weight enough for air transport and marks a major improvement in logistics support capabilities. An official with the kitchen display stated the PLA had so-far purchased about 100 of these mobile kitchens.

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