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Chinese Notes from AeroIndia and IDEX
February 2005

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by Richard Fisher, Jr.
Published on February 28th, 2005

The following notes constitute updates on People’s Liberation Army (PLA) programs obtained at two recent arms shows, AeroIndia in Bangalore, February 9-12 and IDEX, Abu Dhabi, February 12-17. Chinese armor, naval, missile and electronics companies were only at IDEX, traditionally one of their largest foreign displays. As a general observation, it is necessary to conclude that Chinese military modernization continues to accelerate in breadth and depth. Their general confidence and a growing desire for export sales impel the Chinese to reveal more systems previously kept secret. They are willing to disclose a wider range of armor systems, to include a new airborne tank program that will aid their power-projection capabilities. A new air defense passive detection system was revealed, and for the first time, meager information was provided about their Type 039 Song-class conventional submarine. Russian sources disclosed progress on a new long-range anti-ship missile and medium-range SAM, both of which will be purchased by China, while others noted their skepticism that the Shenyang Aircraft Company can fully succeed with intentions to produce an "indigenous" Su-27 fighter. A Ukrainian source provided background on a new naval active phased array radar, which may be installed on the new PLA Navy No. 170-class "Aegis" class destroyers.

Chinese Revelations

New Airborne Tank

In early 2005 there was a brief CCTV glimpse of what appeared to be a new lightweight tank for the PLA Airborne Army. Then in mid-February a Chinese military magazine also revealed a clearer view of a new airborne IFV, reportedly designated the ZLC-2000. At IDEX a Norinco official confirmed for the first time that indeed the PLA does have a new lightweight airborne tank. The official explained that China had first approached Russia to co-produce a version of the BMD airborne tank. China reportedly purchased a small number of BMD airborne tanks in the mid-1990s. However, the Russians charged too much, forcing China to develop its own new airborne tank. This program took at least five years. The Norinco official was vague about the weight of the tank but said it was "around" 10 tons. It is also made in at least three versions: command and control; IFV; and ATGM carrier. The command and control version features a higher rear hull section to house personnel. The IVF version is armed with a turret that combines a 30mm cannon with the Type-73C anti-tank guided missile. The dedicated ATGM carrier is armed with the HJ-8 ATGM. This tank is amphibious. The production of a new airborne tank will serve to strengthen the power-projection capability of the PLA Airborne Army, and may be an indication that as per previous reports, China may also be building a second airborne army.

ZLC-2000 ABN Tank

Weight: @10 tons

IFV version: 30mm gun, up to 350 rounds, AP, HE, plus Type-73C semi-active guided ATGM, 3000m range.

ATGM version: w/ HJ-8 ATGM, 4000m range

Command Version
Photo: Internet source

105mm "Assault Tank Destroyer"

Norinco revealed a detailed model of its 105mm gun armed wheeled IFV based on the WZ551 APC. Officials confirmed news from last September that it is now in production. This time a Norinco official agreed the IFV is being produced for new Light Mechanized Infantry Divisions. Three are reportedly being formed, to include one in Xinjiang. An official said the new Light Mechanized Infantry Divisions would use both wheeled and tracked vehicles. Officials noted that a competing family of IFVs remains under development even though not chosen for production. With a combat weight of 19 tons, it can fit into a Y-8 size transport. An Il-76 may be able to carry two. The gun fires the range of tank ammunition, to include a unique PLA modification of the 105mm gun launched missile.

  Assaulter 6x6 Tank Destroyer
19 tons
8.3 m
235 kw
105mm, 30 rnds
7.62mm, 800 rnds
12.7mm, 480 rnds
Photo: RD Fisher

More Details on Gun Launched Missile

Norinco revealed a marketing brochure for its 105mm gun launched missile. It is a modified copy of the Russian Bastion gun launched anti-tank missile. Norinco explained the missile is theirs to sell as the original co-production contract only pertained to 100 of the 100mm Russian version of this missile. Norinco apparently owns the 105mm modification. Like the Bastion, it has a 5km range. It also has a penetration measured in "RHA 650mm with ERA," meaning it can penetrate 650mm of hard armor after penetrating outer explosive reactive armor. This missile arms the new IFV and the highly modified T-59D tank, which been entering several units in the last few years.

Tank Round Effectiveness Illustrated

Norinco provided in both actual and graphic form illustrations of the effectiveness of its tank ammunition for its Armor Piercing Discarded Sabot and High Energy Anti-Tank (HEAT) categories. With a tungsten core penetrator, the 125mm gun armor piercing round claims a penetration at 2km measured in 550mm of rolled homogeneous armor (RHA). The penetration for the 105mm gun round at 2km is 460mm RHA.


New Mobile Air Defense Vehicle

Norinco also revealed its "Yitian Air Defense Weapon System," which combined 8x of the AVIC-1 Louyang TY-90 SAM with a WZ551 chassis. Officials said development would be completed this year and production could begin in 2006. While the official also said this system was for "export," it is also apparent that it could arm new Light Mechanized Infantry Divisions. Unlike other new mobile SAMs revealed over the last year, the Yitian uses a 3-D radar with a 18km range, plus electro-optics with a 12km tracking range, to use 6km range missiles. The TY-90 is an IR-guided missile. While ideal for new Light Mechanized Infantry Divisions based around WZ551 vehicles, AVIC-1 and Louyang are offering the same system mounted on a copy of the US HUMMER which h would be far more deployable. It remains to be seen which the PLA Army chooses.

Yitian Air Defense System
Louyang TY-90
SAM Speed:
SAM Range:
Up to 6km
Fire Control:
Radar Detection:
Radar Tracking:
Reaction Time:
6-8 sec
Photo: RD Fisher

New IFV Details

Norinco officials also confirmed again that a new Infantry Fighting Vehicle is in production for the PLA. Similar to the BMP-3 IFV, it features a new type hull but is armed with a co-produced version of the BMP-3 turret. A Russian official involved in the BMP program confirmed that a co-production program had been completed, but that the BMP turret was being produced in China-as had been noted by a Norinco official in September 2004. Russian sources say the turret is only at a BMP-3 level of technology. Russia was marketing a new version of this turret, the "Bancha," which is claimed to be 3-4 times better than the BMP-3. Nevertheless, China’s production of a new large amphibious IFV indicates a significant commitment to modernization and mechanization of its armored forces.

New BMP-1 Version for Marines

Norinco was also marketing a new version, a more amphibious version of its long-produced copy of the Russian BMP-1 APC. This version is equipped with an outboard motor to increase water speed, much like the highly modified T-63 APC now in PLA Army and Marine service. Norinco says the new BMP-1 is in production for the PLA Marines. It is also armed with a tandem-warhead version of the Type 73C Red Arrow ATGM, which claims penetration of 800 RHA.

New Version Type 501: Said to be in production for the PLA Marine Corps. Photo: Norinco

A Few More Type 039 Song-class Submarine Details

China Shipbuilding Co. took its first public steps toward marketing its Type 039 Song-class conventional submarine by providing a one-page leaflet with very basic details. While the 039 prototype is depicted on the leaflet, an official said the data pertained to the more modern version now in series production for the PLA Navy. An official confirmed that this submarine is now being produced in two shipyards, at Wuhan and Shanghai. The displacement was given as 1,992 tons, operations radius at 3,000 nautical miles, a crew of 50-60, and a max dive depth of 300m. An official said that Air Independent Propulsion was not planned for this class of submarine. Nevertheless, it is known that there is a navy institute in Dalian that is the leading Chinese R&D center for fuel cell technologies, which has substantial contact with German fuel cell technology centers. The Russian Malachite small sub maker was advertising two types of Russian AIP system, one based on a closed-cycle diesel engine system, and one that uses hydrogen fuels to produce an electrochemical reaction.

Submarines: China Shipbuilding released minimum details on the modified Type 039 Song class submarine. And the Russian Malachite bureau revealed that Russia has pursued two new Air Independent Propulsions systems, a closed-diesel system and one based on hydrogen to produce electricity. Photo: Internet source and Malachite Bureau

Torpedoes and Mines Revealed

China revealed a range of torpedoes and mines for the first time at IDEX. While officials could not be contacted to disclose further information, brochures and wall posters showed two types of wire-guided torpedoes, two types of fast-rising mines, and three types of bottom-dwelling remote control mines. The fast rising mines included the previously known EM52 rocket mine, but also a new disclosure, the EM55, which is containerized, likely sized for torpedo tube deployment, and may be influenced by Russian small rocket torpedoes like the APR-3. Two bottom dwelling mines appear to be torpedo tube deployed, while the EM56 is a long-range torpedo-shaped self-deploying mine. A brochure noted it had a range of 13km, a 380kg warhead, and a life of 9 months. The non-mobile EM12 comes in two sizes, with a 700kg and a 320kg warhead. The EM12 can employ acoustic, magnetic and hydrostatic fuses as required.

EM-12 Ground Mine
EM56 Propelled Mine
ET52 Light Wt. Torpedo
950-570 kg
Mine Depth:
Photo: China Shipbuilding

New Passive Detection System

As part of its display featuring radar and electronic systems, China revealed that it had developed a new passive detection system. Similar in concept to the Ukrainian Kolchuga, it features three receiving vehicles that receive a wide range of electronic emissions from aircraft and ships, triangulate their location while comparing them to a large data bank for identification. The system is famous for being able to detect a surprising variety of U.S. aircraft, even stealth aircraft. The Ukraine is reported to have some Kolchuga systems to China. Chinese officials noted their system is similar to Kolchuga, but does not have the latter’s range. It has a range of 200-300km in comparison to the 600km range of the Kolchuga. It is likely that for a Taiwan operations scenario that the shorter range meets PLA requirements.

New Passive Detection System: A new revelation at the IDEX show was a Chinese passive detection system similar to the Ukrainian Kolchuga, though with a shorter operating range.
Photo: RD Fisher via Poly Electronics/DIV>

Chinese-Turkish "Toros" SRBM

Following its unveiling as the B611 SRBM at the 2004 Zhuhai Airshow, it was revealed that this new SRBM was actually a co-production program with Turkey. At IDEX officials revealed that this missile was a program of the Turkish concerns Tubitak and Makina ve Kimya Endustrisis Kurumu (MKEK). Apparently the product of a ten-year program, the missile was first fired to 120km in 2001, and then to 152km in 2003. As a development program the work is finished, according to officials, and there has been no production order for the Turkish military. Meanwhile, China’s CASIC is marketing the missile and apparently planning a 250km range version. It is not known whether the PLA has purchased this missile as well. Recent Chinese reports note the B611 is intended to compete with the Russian Iskander-E SRBM. Last year CASIC officials noted the B611 has a maneuvering capability to defeat missile defenses, like the Iskander.

Turkish “Toros,” Chinese B611 missile: Turkish officials acknowledged a cooperative SRBM development program with China. China is now marketing this missile while Turkish officials claim it has not been adopted by the Turkish military. Photo: RD Fisher

Russian-Chinese Project Progress

Ukrainian Kvant Naval Active Phased Array Radar

The Kvant Bureau of Ukraine disclosed some new details regarding its new active phased array long-range naval radar. In early 2004 reports from the Ukraine noted that China had purchased a Ukrainian phased array radar for a new class of destroyers. This presumably is the new 170-class destroyer, the PLA Navy’s most modern air-defense destroyer. While first revealing this radar in France in 2004, Kvant officials at IDEX did not disclose the designation for the new radar, but did provide a photo and some performance details. It is a C-Band radar that has a 150-160km range in broad search mode. In spot mode the radar has a much longer range. It can track about 150 aircraft-size targets. For proper ship defense this centimeter-wave radar should be paired with counter-stealth capable meter-wave radar. China’s 170-class destroyer does just this.

Ukrainian KVANT Active Naval PAR: This radar is most likely that employed by the PLA Navy No. 170 class air defense DDG. This radar serves to put this DDG in the class of the US Aegis radar-equipped destroyers. Photo: RD Fisher, internet sources

J-11 Skepticism

China’s desire to produce an "indigenized" version of the Su-27/J-11 fighter may be at the heart of decision not to complete a co-production contract for 200 fighters, but Irkut officials are skeptical that China’s Shenyang Aircraft Corporation can make such a fighter, meaning China will have to return to "kit" co-production. Sukhoi officials have noted China’s desire to do so since 2000 and to wit, Shenyang has been busy integrating Chinese radar and engines to form a new J-11 version, sometimes called J-11B. Evidence of China’s commitment to "indigenization" emerged in February 2005 in the form of Internet-source photos of a Y-8 transport modified with a J-11 nose, to test a Chinese fighter radar for this aircraft. Meanwhile Sukhoi has sought to interest China in Sukhoi-designed upgraded Su-27 models like the Su-27SK. The differing ambitions came to a head in early 2004 when Shenyang apparently told Sukhoi it would not buy more than 105 co-production "kits" out of 200 contracted for in a widely reported 1996 contract. Reports indicate China had an original option to stop kit procurement at 105. But an Irkut official notes that China will have great difficulty fully reproducing the Su-27/J-11, especially in copying software, avionics and flight control systems. While this may be debatable, Irkut official note China may not be able to accomplish this task until after 2010, when Sukhoi will be fielding a 4++ generation versions. While Irkut banks on logic returning Shenyang to kit coproduction, nationalism may impel China to continue down its chosen path.

Y-8 Modified To Support J-11 Radar Tests: Photos of this new modified Y-8 emerged in early 2005, indicating the PLA’s investment in an “indigenous” version of the J-11/Su-27 fighter. However, some Russians believe that China will not succeed with this project, meaning a return to component purchase from Russia. Photo: internet source

Kh-59MK Anti Ship Missile

The Raduga missile concern said that its Kh-59MK anti-ship missile, first revealed in 2001, was in an advanced stage of testing and would be ready for delivery by 2006. Originally believed to be intended for pairing with the Sukhoi Su-30MKK3 fighter, news from the 2002 Zhuhai Show indicated this Sukhoi program is not proceeding. In the meantime, Raduga has modified the Kh-59MK to be used by existing Su-30 variants. The Kh-59MK is a heavier variant of the earlier Kh-59 subsonic tactical attack missile. Powered by a more powerful turbojet engine, the Kh-59MK has a 285km range and is radar guided. Raduga officials are confident that Su-30 operators like China and India will buy the Kh-59MK.

Raduga Kh-59MK: Could be ready for delivery by 2006.
Photo: RD Fisher

Altair Shtil-1 Naval Sam Signals Possible Resumption of Type 054 Frigate Production

For the second time the ALTAIR bureau displayed its new SHTIL-1 naval SAM. It is a highly modified and vertically launched version of the SHTIL missile. It has a higher Mach 4.5 speed and a 45km range. ALTAIR officials note that it will be ready for production in 2006 and that there is a foreign customer. While not revealing that customer, it is very likely that it is destined for the PLA Navy. In early 2004 a model of a new variant of the Type 054 stealth frigate was revealed to have a Russian vertical SAM, likely a new version of the SHTIL. It is reasonable to conclude that this is indeed the case. Other sources have previously noted that construction of the 054 frigates had been suspended pending completion of the new air defense system.

New Altair Shtil-1 SAM: A vertical launched Shtil-1 should be ready by 2006, meaning an upgraded version of the Type 054 stealth frigate (right) may emerge starting next year. Photos: RD Fisher, Altair, internet sources

Be-200 for China

An Irkut official confirmed that Beriev is now discussing the possible sale of Be-200 amphibious jets to China. Earlier reports held that China was interested in buying 10 of the unique turbofan powered amphibians. An Irkut official confirmed that China was interested initially in buying 3, and then more, perhaps up to 10. Irkut will complete the first 7 Be-200s for Russia by 2006, after which additional orders may start. China is interested in transport and maritime patrol versions of the Be-200. For China these aircraft would significantly ease the maintenance of China’s many island bases in the Paracel and Spratly Island chains in the South China Sea and add to the PLA’s limited maritime patrol assets.

Be-200 for China: Though a contract has not been signed, Irkut expects an order of up to 10 Be-200s from China. Photo: RD Fisher

Club Land Attack Cruise Missile

In a video the Novator bureau revealed that it will be marketing a new ground-based version of its CLUB land-attack and anti-ship cruise missiles. The land-attack version of the 3M-14E CLUB cruise missile was revealed in 2003. This subsonic speed cruise missile has a range of 275km and a take-off weight of 1770kg. Novator officials noted that it is guided by terrain-contour matching radar, which allows for low-altitude defense-avoiding flight, and can receive navigation satellite guidance updates. A marketing video depicted a concept TEL equipped with seven missiles. This TEL fires both the anti-ship 3M-54E, which features a supersonic second stage, and the land-attack 3M-14E. The latter is also offered in an air-launched version, for fitting on Sukhoi attack aircraft. It is known that China plans to acquire the 3M-53E anti-ship version for its eight new Kilo class submarines, but it is not known whether the PLA has purchased the land-attack 3M-14E, or the 3M-14E1 anti-ship version of this missile. Such a purchase would be a logical addition to its Russian Kilo submarines and Su-30 attack fighters, but would add redundancy to existing PLA cruise missile programs, which reportedly may see an indigenous Tomahawk-class cruise missile deployed in 2005.

Novator Land Attack Cruise Missile: The Russian Novator bureau revealed new land-attack versions of its 3M-14E cruise missile, designed for launch from submarines, ships, aircraft and a new ground TEL. It is not known whether China has either purchased or at least benefited from this system.Photos: RD Fisher

European Perspectives

Eurocopter-CHRDI 7-Ton Helicopter Program Progress

A Eurocopter official stated that following its revelation at the 2004 Airshow China, a memorandum of understanding was completed in December 2004 between Eurocopter and its Chinese partner to develop a new 7-ton utility helicopter. Eurocopter expects the program will commence by at least June 2005. The goal is to produce the new helicopter by 2010. It will be built in China, which will cover the Chinese market, and in France, which will produce for the rest of the world. This program marks an increase in Eurocopter’s long commitment to the Chinese market, beginning with the Super Frelon and Dauphin helicopters in the 1980s, which are still being built in China. Eurocopter officials noted that the Changhe Z-11 helicopter, which saw the test flight of a dedicated attack version in December 2004, still requires imported components. Changhe is not capable of total production of this helicopter. Meanwhile the first Internet-source pictures of the "Z-10" combat attack helicopter have emerged, confirming previous reports that it closely resembles the Eurocopter "Tiger" attack helicopter.

Eurocopter-China Cooperation: Work on the new Eurocopter-CHRDI 6-10 ton helicopter (top left) could begin in the Summer of 2005, while Eurocopter insists that the Changhe Helicopter company must import components to complete copies of the AS-350 or Z-11 (top right). Meanwhile the first Internet-source pictures of the CHRDI “Z-10” attack helicopter (bottom left) have emerged and confirm reports that it closely resembles the Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopter, shown in model form at IDEX. Photos: RD Fisher and internet sources

AM General Denies There Is Chinese HUMVEE Production

While one can seen increasing pictorial evidence that two companies in China are producing copies of the AM General HUMVEE light utility vehicle, an AM General official flatly denied that any model of their vehicle is actually in production in China. He noted that AM General has provided components to the two Chinese companies in question, DongFeng Motors and the Shenyang Aircraft Co., but was adamant that neither company has an actual active production line for these vehicles. Nevertheless, one can view Internet-source pictures illustrating a long line of HUMVEE copies at the DongFeng Company and that the Shenyang Aircraft Co. is providing HUMVEE copies for SAM-equipped versions. The AM General official noted that previously they were upset when other countries copied the HUMVEE, but is less concerned as the copies usually do not match the quality of their product. There are reports that in the late 1980s that the U.S. provided China with examples of the HUMVEE to help prosecute drug trafficking in their southern areas.

AM General Denies PRCHUMVEE Production: At left, an October 2003 photo of Dong Feng Motors copy of the HUMVEE, apparently coming off a production line. This vehicle is also produced by the Shenyang Aircraft Company.

Poly Industries Reveals New Air Defense Modified HUMVEE Copy

Poly Technologies, a major PLA-controlled export company, revealed a new air defense system based on the new FB-6A Missile Launching Vehicle. This system is a near copy of the U.S. Boeing AVENGER, which puts a turret comprised of 8x Raytheon STINGER SAMs and one 50 cal machine gun, with an optical/low light auto tracking system and a laser ranger, on a AM General HUMVEE carrier. Over 70 AVENGER systems were sold and delivered to Taiwan starting in 1999. The Poly FB-6A also uses a copy of the HUMVEE, plus a missile/gun/tracker turret very similar to that used by the AVENGER. The FB-6A turret comprises 8x FN-6 SAMs that have a maximum range of 5.5km. It also employs a machine gun according to a Poly brochure, but this could not be seen in the accompanying photo of the system. Its tracking system comprises a TV camera, a thermal camera and a laser range finder. The tracking system is able to detect a 2m square target out to 10km. Poly’s brochure notes that up to six FB-6A’s can be networked with a central longer-range radar or optical detection system to provide stationary or mobile air defense.

Poly Technology’s FB-6A: Clearly inspired by the U.S. Boeing AVENGER air defense system, if not copied from it. It even uses a copy of AM General HUMVEE as the carrier for the missile/gun turret. Photo: Poly Technologies

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