Monday, December 31, 2007

New Chinese LCAC

This is probably the best photos I've seen coming out for a while. We are seeing the completion of the first Chinese LCAC. Using my measurement on one of the photos, it looks to be around 27 m in length, 13.5 to 16 m in beam and 3.5 m in height. Now, that's incredibly similar to the dimension of the USN LCAC. Which makes me think that it would also have similar displacement and payload to USN LCAC. Which means, it should be able to carry ZTZ-99 and ZTZ-96. We finally see what's going to be used in Type 071 LPD. An interesting part for me would be how many of these fit in Type 071. If we go by LPD-17 with LCAC, then we are looking at probably 2. The other interesting part is that this is much smaller than Zubr class hovercraft which China apparently bought (but we have never seen). Now, it looks like China just bought the engines of Zubr and put them on this Chinese LCAC. According to Kanwa, China bought UGT-6000 from Zorya. I don't know whether this is being used or a domestic power plant is being used for this LCAC.

Here are some of the pictures:

There are more such photos at SDF's Type 071 LPD thread.

There are also some other photos coming out. They are nothing new, but good shots of 805 and 530.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

PLAAF - 2007

Having reviewed the progress of PLAN in the past year, I thought I would get into the progress of PLAAF now. As mentioned in the previous blogs, the air force has not seen the level of modernization witnessed in navy in the past 5 years. However, that does not mean plaaf has not made amazing improvement in the recent years. If we look back at the past few years, 2002-3 were the years that China finally received fighters capable of launching actively guided MRAAM and precision guided missiles with mkk and upgraded J-11. 2004 was the year that J-10 stormed onto the scene and proven itself as the most advanced fighter in service with PLAAF. 2005 was the year that China finally developed its own portfolio of different surveillance aircrafts with KJ-2000, Y-8J and the high new programs. 2006 was the year that China finally joined the world's elite club after displaying J-10 with its indigenous engine (WS-10A), indigenous avionics and indigenous missiles (PL-12 + PL-8B). It also marked the first time that China displayed its homegrown arsenal of precision guided missiles. When we look back at 2007, we see a year where PLAAF reached a new level of transparency when it finally really unveiled J-10, J-11B, JH-7A, engine progress, strike weapons and strategic platforms.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the past year is the unveiling of different PGMs and other ground attack weapons. After a really good display at Peace Mission 2007, JH-7A has finally shown its worth in PLA. And the main reason for its success are the new strike weapons and JH-7A's ability to use them. We have seen the deployment of a stand-off ground attack weapon in KD-88. In terms of capabilities, it's roughly comparable to SLAM-ER. We have seen the deployment of high speed anti-radiation missile in YJ-91. Although it's based on KH-31, it has improved indigenous seekers and possibly propellent. When it comes to air launched AShM, YJ-83K have become a regular fixture on JH-7As. We have also seen satellite guided bombs in LS-6, FT-1, FT-3. Although they are not still widely deployed (due to the infancy of Beidou), they seem to be inexpensive and relatively accurate like Western satellite guided bombs. We have also seen widespread deployment of laser guided bombs like LS-500J and LS-250J. Along with Russian strike weapons like KH-29, KH-59 and PGMs, China finally has true modern multi-role capability. With the full unveiling of JH-7A, we see a platform that is capable of striking targets at long range away with high precision. JH-7A has shown enough versatility to become the super hornets of PLA. It is asked to do many missions from ground strike, ground support, ASuW, SEAD and even EW. That is probably why we have already seen 6 regiments of JH-7/A series in service and probably will see 2 or 3 more. We have also seen the unveiling of H-6K bomber with new long range LACMs. Many people have questioned the usefulness of a 40s era bomber in 21st century, but we have seen enough improvement in the airframe, engine, weapons and avionics to indicate a fairly effective bomb truck.

We have also seen the continual upgrade of fighter force with continual deployment of J-10, introduction of J-11B and conversion programs of J-8II to J-8F standard. The results of J-10 against flankers in numerous exercises were finally published in official papers this year. We have seen more information on J-10 coming out like some radar specs, informal sources on its flight performance and it's switch to using more WS-10A engine. More importantly, we've been hearing about a major upgrade to J-10 coming out next year. We have also been hearing about continual improvement in the WS-10 series engine that was design to equip it. J-11B also made a dramatic appearance into the public eye right after the official declassification of J-10. I guess SAC was trying to steal some thunder from CAC. More importantly, it seems that the next generation PLAAF fighter must be making some progress for these declassification to happen. And with the news of more J-8II being converted to J-8F through Kunlun-2 engine upgrades and other upgrades, we can expect J-8F to be an important part of PLAAF plan for a while. JF-17 development is finally close to finished. Although it is unlikely to join the hi/lo combination of J-10 and J-11 for the future, it seems to have a future in PLAAF as a ground attacker to replace Q-5 or maybe as a two-seated trainer.

The interesting part about trainer is that Chinese trainer development seemed to have hit a wall. Su-27UBK and J-10S certainly do their job to train new pilots for the respective single seaters and serve other purpose in combat. However, the future pilots obviously cannot do all of their advanced training on these planes(due to many reasons). Let's take a look at the trainer developments. In the primary training category, Hongdu has failed to develop such a trainer and will now have to do licensed production of Yak-152K. In the intermediate training category, K-8 has established itself as a success both domestically and in the export market. In the LIFT category, GAIC was able to develop a relatively modern trainer (JL-9) very quickly based on existing technologies. Although it is still using turbojet engine and is based on JJ-7, it's cost + quick delivery have won a lot of orders from PLAAF. However, the much hyped L-15 project is apparently turning out to be a failure in PLAAF. It has yet to attract any kind of orders from the air force as a trainer or an attacker. This development has come as a huge shock for me. Hongdu in the recent years seemed to have been abysmal at turning out quality products for PLAAF. Their reliance on Yakolev has angered decision makers in PLA. It would be interesting to see if PLAAF has any change of heart in the coming year.

Military transport is another area that has been a disappointment for PLAAF. The much talked about IL-76 deal has pretty much fell to the gutters. The Russians aren't willing to build the transports at the current cost, but the Chinese aren't willing to renegotiate. It's kind of interesting that PLAAF has taken such a strong stance, because they really need this plane. They need it not only for air transport, but also as the platform for KJ-2000 and ABL development. It's true that this is a really bad contract for the Russians. However, China has signed numerous rip off contracts with the Russians like the 2nd batch of Sovs, 2nd batch of mkks, the 8 kilo sub package. Despite the fact that China no longer needed those deals after they were signed (and firing accidents), they still continued to take them in. It's good to know that they are finally developing a C-17 class transports, but that might not be ready until at least 2015. The question is what will China do until that time? Where is it going to find the necessary IL-76 platforms to convert to KJ-2000s? We know that they converted another 4 KJ-2000s this year. It's still unknown at this time whether this was taken from their fleet of 20 IL-76s or frames they got off the former Soviet republics. Either way, there is a reason that China is not holding any more talks with the Russians regarding military cooperations. Finally, there are the Y-8/9 developments. We've seen more KJ-200 coming out on the Y-8F600 platforms this year, which is a good sight after the tragic crash class year. We have also seen other high new platforms being converted from other Y-8 series transports. A very critical project that is being worked on is Y-9. As I mentionned in a previous blog, it is quite unbelievable that Y-9 has taken this long to develop. And then the header developer had the audacity to say that the delay is to make the plane perfect. When in fact the only reason PLAAF has made orders to this transport is because they desperately need something in this class for improved air transport + conversion to the high new series.

We have seen some mixed results in the helicopter area. In terms of attack helo, we were surprised to see the unveiling of the stealthy looking Z-10. It definitely looks like China has finally developed a world class attack helicopter. Even seeing the performance of Z-9G in Peace Mission 2007, I really have the feeling that attack helicopter is one area that China has made tremendous progress one. They've even managed to develop WZ-9 turboshaft for serial production rather than relying on P&W engine. Helicopter is one area that China has been able to cooperate with the West and learn from. We have already seen results in HC-120 and the future Z-15 project. However, the Z-15 project and the 10 tonne transport project are still years from completion. They've had to continue purchase from the Russians in Mi-17, Mi-26 and possibly Mi-38 to have a respectable transport fleet. They are still missing a respectable naval helicopter and have to rely on Ka-28. Z-9 series is simply too small to handle many of the tasks. Although Z-8F/K have finally reached the requirements of PLA, its production rate is still too low and cost is still too high to fully fulfill the needs of PLA. Until then, China has to rely on the Russians for naval and transport helicopters. Mi-17 offers a good cost/capability ratio, but Ka-28 is just not as good as SH-60 and NH-90.

Finally, the progress of engine has been really encouraging this past year. It appears that WS-10A has reached mass production and is equipping both J-10 and J-11B. WS-13 was in the long duration test this year and should be ready to start mass production next year. Although, it might be a while longer before it can become mature enough to equip all JF-17s. The upgraded version WS-10 with a T/W ratio of close to 9 achieved some level of milestone this past September and maybe ready in 2 or 3 years. According to some big shrimps, even WS-15's progress has been great and will probably be ready by 2015. Other engines like WS-500, WZ-9 and Kunlun series are all proceeding well and will soon be ready for their respective platforms. Engine has long been a sour point for Chinese defense industry, but the progress in the the last couple of years means that China will no longer be reliant on the Russians in a few years.

In general, the results of major projects have been mixed. In fact, I would say that the progress in trainers and transports is embarrassing and slow compared to what we've seen in the naval industry. We've seen China gaining in project management and production quality through work with aerospace giants like Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier. We've seen plenty of experience working with helicopter giants like Eurocopter and Sikorsky. However, these success have not transferred into the kind of success we have seen in the navy. Outside of CAC and SAC, the progress of other major aircraft companies have been disappointing. Even SAC has suffered a lot of delays in J-11B. A project that was suppose to be complete last year is only ready to join service now. We've seen a lot of gains in the strike weapons and continuous development of A2A missiles as well. The increased multi-role capabilities in PLAAF is definitely the bright spot this year.

So, what can we really expect next year? I've read just today about a new flanker variant that SAC has assembled and handed over to the flight test center (CFTE). I'm think this is either J-11BS or naval J-11 (some have used J-15 for its designation). So, this is definitely one fighter that I'd expect to hear more from over 2008. The other major project is the modified J-10. I've talked about it in my previous blog entries and it should also be doing flight tests next year. Although, the IOC for both fighters is probably still a couple of years away. JF-17 should be ready next year. I'm definitely expecting some firm export orders outside of the Pakistani ones. It would be interesting to see how successful this plane will be. It will also be interesting to see when twin-seater and ground attack versions will turn out. I've also heard about JH-7B coming out. Although for this one, I think the change will not be as radical as J-10 modified. Either way, I'm expecting plenty more news about JH-7 series next year for the EW variant, the continued deployment of current variant and the upgraded variant. Also, H-6K should be more of a fixture in the coming year. I also expect next year to be a banner year for Chinese AAMs. I think the long talked about next generation SRAAM and LRAAM will finally come out next year. The other big development that I'm looking for is the appearance of anti-air UCAV. As I have discussed in numerous places, SAC is apparently in advanced stage of development in this project. If it is developed, it will certainly represent a potent part of PLAAF's future. I'm sure that development of other UAVs and long ranged LACMs may also become more visible next year. I also expect continued appearance of Z-10 photos, but am not looking for any kind of miracles in the naval or transport category. The Y-9 project should finally have a liftoff next year, so we might see Y-9 based high new planes in the next few years. More Y-7 based surveillance planes like the carrier AEW and ASW platform might also make more appearnce. Everyone is focused on the news making programs like J-10, JF-17 and flanker series, but other programs are just as critical. I hope that other firms in AVIC1 and AVIC2 can become more competent and start finishing projects on time like CAC. After reviewing both PLAAF and PLAN, I think it's quite clear why I'm more excited about the navy at the moment.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

PLAN looking forward to 2008

As mentionned in the last post, there are a lot of big things expected in 2008. With the 3rd shipyard (the military one) in JN's new Changxin location going online, we are looking at a new wave of building this year for destroyers and diesel subs. So, what am I expecting to see this year exactly?

The one that is probably most anticipated is the aircraft carrier. Most people suspect that we will see this in JiangNan shipyard. I don't have a problem with that, but will we actually see any meaningful pictures of this indigenous carrier this coming year? I do believe that many of the suppliers have already delivered the necessary components. I also believe that the ship will start construction in 2008, but we might not see anything useful for another 2 years. What about Varyag? We've been waiting for progress ever since the second half of 2005 when the ship was first painted in PLAN colour. Since then, we've seen some progress, but this year hasn't brought about that much changes. The conventional wisdom is that China bought Varyag for study and for training/preparing a future naval air wing. As time goes by, I have more and more doubts toward latter. I almost feel like Varyag is being displayed as a decoy of some sort. It is there to grab people's attention on this old ship, and away from works on China's first indigenous carrier. Obviously, I'm not expecting much progress in Varyag in 2008.

What about Destroyers? All signs are pointing to laying down of the successor to 052C in the beginning of next year. There is a lot of speculations on what would be size and armament on this ship. Many people have also speculated it to be the first class of massed produced Destroyers after Luda. While I can make guesses on how many missiles I will see on this 052D class, it probably isn't all that important. I guess we will definitely seem more VLS cells, more stealthy hull and possibly more advanced ASW parts. I think what we can safely guess is that 2 052Ds will be under work next year at JN. If we use 052C guideline, we might see 1 of the 052D be launched by the end of the year (if work starts at the beginning of the year). Questions that I have right now includes:
1. What kind of propulsion will be used? Still CODOG and COGAG? Still using licensed production of DA-80 or QC-185 or QC-260?
2. Will it have VLS for LACM/AShM? I'm thinking no, but it will be kind of interesting to see what kind of LACM and AShM it will carry and how many it can carry.
3. Will it carry shorter ranged AShM? Outside of Type 730 CIWS, will we see additional short range defense like HH-7?
4. How many VLS cells to expect and will they use common VLS? I'm guessing 64 or 72 and they probably will still be the same VLS as on 052C.
5. Upgraded sensors? What kind of changes will we see in the electronics? It will be interesting to see whether we just get the same sensors (upgraded inside) or completely new sensors. Whether or not some of the newly tested sensors on 891 will go on there.

What about frigates? This year, we have seen that all 4 initial 054A have been launched and commissioned. Sadly, we did not see a second batch of 054A. Although it's not as talked about, Huangpu shipyard also had a huge expansion this past year. While the dock was being used for 022s and the ocean tugging ship, 054A was put on the back burners. I guess that showed the important of these auxiliary ships, but also that PLAN wanted to test these new ships out before building the second batch. With the Huangpu expansion, we might see more 054 series coming out in the future in HP than HD. I would imagine that 054A will begin construction again at both HD and HP next year. We might see another 4 built next year. Although, it will be interesting to see what kind of modifications they make. Here are some of my questions:
1. What kind of propulsion? Still using CODAD and change to CODOG? We know that they've already approached the Russians on UGT-15000 and got a new generation of MTU diesel engines. Will this CODOG combination be on the next batch of 054A or a later batch? Certainly, they can continue to use the previous configuration. In fact, the kind of propulsion used could very well tell us the purpose of the ship. CODAD would indicate the AAW focused 054A. CODOG would indicate a more general focus later variant with more ASW capability built in.
2. Change in sensors? Are we going to continue to see the existing set of sensors or the new set that is currently undergoing tests on 891. Certainly, the new MFR on 891 would add cost + capability to 054A.
3. Upgrades in ASW? Are we going to see TAS finally on 054 series? It's surprising that they haven't put it on 054A yet.
4. Changes to VLS? the current configuration works pretty well and seems to be quite compact, but are we going to see possibly 48 in the future or maybe common VLS?

What about 022s? We've seen an astonishing number of 022s come out this year. I originally estimated that the 022s will stop production by 2011. However, it seems like 022 production will finish as early as next year if this production rate continues. The production almost confuses me, because PLAN has not shown this kind of urgency with any of its other recent platforms. It brings us to the next point. It looks like 022 is replacing 021/024/037 in the FAC/patrol kind of role. How many does PLAN really need. I mentionned 100 as the number a year ago and was laughed at by certain people. It now appears China might get even more than that if the production like this continues until 2010. Will 022 also be used in the sub-chaser kind of role like 037 is? We've already seen target ships based on 022. Will we see some kind of sub-chaser using catamaran hull? Or will we see ASW corvette like in Project 20380 by the Russians or Project 28 by the Indians? It seems like something like that is needed between 022 and 054A class. But will it come out now as we expect? That could certainly be used to replace Jiangwei/Jianghu class.

What about amphibious platform? Production of 072 and 073 class seem to have stopped now. According to Richard Fisher, there are going to be 150 of the 074A Yubai class. That will certainly be important in replacing the 079s. The most visible new class is obviously the 071 LPD. We've seen the first one joining service in SSF as 998. We've yet to see work on a second unit. We know that Dalian and HD shipyard both competed for the first 071 contract with HD winning. It kind of made sense, because HD generally builds ships faster. I believe we will see another unit of 071 being built next year and that will be done at Dalian. At the same time, HD will probably start construction of China's first LHD. We've talked about the challenges surrounding a Chinese LHD in the past, but there does seem to be enough political and military will at this point for a unit of this class. And I do hope that we will finally see the LCACs for 071 coming out next year.

What about submarines? We will most likely continue to see more 093s and 094s coming out. But we probably won't see the actual numbers until GE updates. Conventional subs is also likely to see more units this year, because JN shipyard will be available for it again. We were seeing 3 to 4 039s launched per year when it was finally in mass production. We have seen either the 2nd or the 3rd unit of 039A Yuan class under construction recently. It looks like PLAN has finally sorted out enough issues in Yuan to mass produce it. I'm guessing we will see 3-6 039As coming out a year for the next couple of years. And after that, we will see the successor to the 039 class. Probably something in the league of U-214/Scorpene. 039A to me is still something that is sort of an experimental class for technology to be used in that next generation Diesel sub.

As for the remaining part of the fleet, I'm looking for the following:
1. more MCM units in the 804 and 805 class
2. Yuanwang 2, 5 and 6 joining service -> 2, 3, 5 and 6 as the Yuanwang ships
3. More ELINT ship in the mode of 991
4. 1 more regiment of JH-7A to give 5 naval regiments of JH-7A
5. H-6K coming into service
6. Y-7 ASW variant (I guess it will do the same job as P-3C)
7. more units of different Y-8 variants
8. New supersonic ramjet missile in the class of Onyx/HF-3, except faster/better range (supposedly ready, we just haven't seen yet). Also other missiles getting finally unveiled like the LACM that was tested on 052C recently and more advanced submarine launched missiles.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

PLAN in 2007

I haven't been able to post for a while due to my personal schedule. But as the Christmas approach us, I finally have a little bit of time to sit down and write something. The two major areas of Chinese military that I look at are the navy and the air force. I will try to start by looking at the year that was and the year that is to come.

PLAN seemed to have moved to a new level of transparency (although still not transparent by Western standard) over the past year. We have finally seen the unveiling previously hidden platforms in 093 and 094 nuclear submarines. China has also stopped refuting reports that it is looking to build a carrier. They all but admitted to Admiral Mullen a while back that they will be building carriers.. So, what can we say about the advancement of PLAN in the past year? If I had to make some summaries on PLAN, they would consist of the following:
1. Of the 4 major services, PLAN is the one that has benefited and improved the most from the recent PLA modernization.
2. The civilian shipbuilding has allowed PLAN to build a massive amount of new ships of relatively high capability at low cost.
3. We have seen more signs of force projection with the unveiling of 071 LPD, 888 replenishment ship, 804 mine hunter, 093, 094 and 054A frigates.
4. We have also seen the modernization in every area of PLAN with the mass production of 022 class, 801 and 805 class minesweepers, Yuanwang 2/5, 851 ELINT ship and new classes of medical ships.
5. We have seen deployment of new sensors/weapons and development/testing of even newer sensors/weapons.

Now, to look examine each of the 5 points:
First, while all 4 services have received mass amount of upgrade in the recent years, the improvement in navy have been the noticeable. If we look at 5 years ago, China's surface ships basically consisted of 2 Sovs, 1 051B, 2 052s and a bunch of obsolete Ludas, Jiangweis and Jianghus. Only 136 and 137 had SAMs that have more than point defense range. Outside of that only 051B and 052 had reliable point defense in the form of HH-7. Clearly, multiple concurrent engagements against sea-skimmers were pretty much non-existent. The ability to engage supersonic missiles was also extremely limited. In terms of ASuW, 136/137 were the pride and joy of PLAN with the much hyped sunburn missiles. In terms of ASW, China relied on subchasers, its more modern submarines in Song and Kilo. The PLANAF had some Y-8 MPAs, H-6s and a regiment of JH-7. As much as PLAAF have improved in the recent years, it was not in this kind of pathetic shape in 2002. It at least already received 74 su-27s, 38 su-30 and some J-8Hs. The order for 2 956EM and 8 636M were looked at as a saviour for PLAN. As we move forward 5 years, the change is almost startling over the past 5 years. They have added 2 052B, 2 052C, 2 051Cs, 2 054, 4 054As, 2 956EM, 1 071, 8 636M, almost 10 039/A, 5 093s, 3 094s, 50+ 022s, 4 more regiments of JH-7/A and a regiment of su-30MK2. We've even seen a total revamp of the auxiliary ships. With the assistance of KJ-200, one 022 has about the same striking power as any ship back in 2002 (yes, I believe YJ-83 is better than the overhyped Sunburn). The strike power in these newly acquired platforms exceed 2002 levels by many folds. They finally have true fleet defense ships in 052C and 051C. They finally have a multi-layer air defense system in place with HH-9/S-300 as the outer layer, HH-16/shtil as the medium layer and Type 730 + HH-7 for close in air defense. They have the capability to engage multiple supersonic missiles as a fleet. Even the seemingly ignored area of ASW have received massive improvement with the induction 093s, 039/As, Kilo and Ka-28s. MCM capability have improved from the complete WWII area fleet to 90s European level with the induction of 804, 805 and 801 class. The induction of 138/139 and the kilos barely met any excitement in PLAN world. In fact, we've heard more complaints about them with 3M80MBE and Club missiles than satisfaction. The only thing that seems to lack behind is the training of sailors for these new ships. 5 years ago, PLAN was struggling as a weakling to in the 4 services. It was barely enough to provide coastal defense. Forward to today, PLAN is just as strong as the other services. It finally is capable of launching real blue water operations without embarrassing itself.

Secondly, this improvement in PLAN has taken place while many other navies in the world have stayed put or regressed. Although ROKN and JMSDF have also improved a lot during this time, China's other main rival in ROCN really hasn't improved that much. With the exception of the 4 Kidd class destroyers and the possible induction of HF-3, ROCN has basically stayed the same. We hear more talk than action during this time. Russian navy has continued its decline with only a limited surface ship actually in operation. Other major navies around the world are all shrinking number like USN, RN and French navy. Everyday, we hear news of delays, budget overruns in various projects like LCS, LPD-17, Gorshkov, Astute class and Type 45. Whereas in PLAN has built the ships on time and seemingly on budget. Can any other navy get a frigate like 054A for 200 million US and Type 22 for less than 15 million US? This improvement can clearly be attributed to the improving domestic shipbuilding capabilities. With the 2nd largest shipbuilding industry in the world (and growing to number 1), the major domestic shipyards like JN, HD, HP and Dalian have certainly made good use of the improved technology, better project management and more skillful work force from the civilian side. Even a military only shipyard like Huludao have managed to crank out nuclear subs like there is no tomorrow. Coincidentally, South Korea and Japan have also used their competitive civilian shipbuilding industry to build highly advanced ships on time and budget.

Thirdly, the new ships we've seen in 2007 have strong elements of force projection. China launched 071, it's largest non-replenishment military ship, at the end of 2006. Many of us were anticipating HH-16 or HH-7 on 071, but that didn't happen. Having said that, 071 is indicating a change in PLAN's doctrine. While 072s are good enough for Taiwan strait, 071 will be important in any long distance amphibious operation. From the pictures, GE photos, it looks like 071 is in the 20,000 t range in terms of full displacement. Its almost as long as LPD-17 and can carry probably 3-4 Z-8F on the helipad + 2 Z-8F or 3 Helix in the hangar. For short range missions, having both the helipad and hangar can provide extra assault helos to support the amphibious operations. 071 also represents the first step toward building an helo carrier (which will probably start building soon). The first 071 has already joined SSF and we will probably see more of this class in the coming years. The second one should be refined from the first one. The other big ticket item from this year is the construction of the 4 054As at HP and HD shipyard. I have already chronicled 054A, so I don't think I will need to state its capabilities again. 054A definitely represents a change in PLAN frigate from corvette size to frigate size (although the Europeans have increased that). They definitely have the size/endurance to be escorts for a carrier group, which is something we can't say for Jiangweis. With the unveiling 093 and 094, these are also clearly power projection tools. The new 093s may not be the most advanced attack subs out there, but PLAN has finally received a sub that has a reliable reactor, good set of sensors and reached reasonable level in terms of speed/quietness. The photos from GE clearly shows that they are actively building more and more 093s. And with 095 supposedly under works already, 093s will provide Chinese sailors with more blue water operations until the more capable sub is ready. And finally, even the launching of 888 and 804 continues to indicate more willingness to move out of first chain. 888 is an evolution from the recent 886/887 replenishment ships. 804 represents the first MCM asset in PLAN that is intended to operate outside of the coastlines. It's equipped with modern imaging sonar and remote operated vehicles to hunt down and dispose mines. Although I did not mention in the points, the addition of more JH-7A regiments, possible inclusion of H-6K regiment and different new Y-8 surveillance ships all point to capabilities further away from the coastline. Of course, PLANAF will not provide true blue water capabilities until PLAN gets a carrier group.

Fourthly, the non-blue water elements in PLAN have also all received important upgrades in the past year. The most obvious one is the mass production of Type 22 FACs. PLAN is clearly in love with these new FACs. In terms of speed, survivability and firepower, they are clearly generations ahead of the FACs that they are replacing. And in any Taiwan scenario, they will be crucial in providing additional firepower. We've seen them already in large scale exercises. If I was to guess, they probably have anywhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 75 of these either commissioned or launched. We will be seeing 022s fully replacing 021/024/037s in the next few years. We've already seen target ships based on the catamaran hull of 022. We've even heard about more of the catamaran LCUs are produced from Richard Fisher. They will definitely be guarding China's coastline for the next 20 years. Outside of 804, we've basically seen at least 2 classes of new minesweeper coming out. The 805 class (also with 328, 438 and 840) seems larger and more capable. Presumably this class of minesweeper can also be oceangoing vessels. 801-803 and 811-814 seems to be the other class that is also an improvement over T-43 class, but is not as advanced. Either way, China is finally getting its first major MCM upgrade since those early days. We've seen China promoting more or more mines in the export market. It's good to see that they are also investing a lot more in the MCM field. We've also seen the new Yuanwang 2 and Yuanwang 5 getting launched this year. You can read about it's purpose on sinodefence. And finally, the elint and medical ships are also getting upgrades with the induction of the 991 SWATH ship, the upgrade of the existing 851 ELINT ship, the induction of 920 medical ship and conversion of another to a medical ship. We've seen a new ocean tugging ship just launched from HP shipyard(sort of caused delay of the construction of more 054A class). The importance is that China is clearly upgrading all parts of its fleets rather than just the eye-catching ones like nuclear subs and surface ships.

Finally, we've seen HH-16 + it's FCR, AK-176M + its FCR, new Sea Eagle radar, AK-630M, ROV, ship launched LACM, Yu-6, H/SQG-207 flank array sonar and JL-2 coming into service on the new platforms. AK-176, ROV and the LACM are certainly systems that we were not expecting to see this year. Especially LACM, we were really surprised to see that 052C's launchers were capable of launching LACM as well as advanced AShM. In the coming year, things that might get deployed are the new Sea Eagle radar and MFR on 891, ASROC and towed linear array radar that are supposed to be in development, gun/missile CIWS, a Chinese AGS and a supersonic AShM like Onyx. I will certainly be expecting some surprises in the coming years. The next post will talk about what kind of systems I'd expect to see next year.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

China's 5th generation fighter

In the last few weeks, a Chinese general said in public TV the following






徐光裕将军 解放军防化学院原院长 解放军总参谋部退役军官、中国军控裁军协会理事 北京三略管理科学研究院高级顾问 著书[核战略纵横]国防大学出版社

This got famous because he mentionned that China has been researching on this plane for many years and have made a lot of progress. This project has been on going for over 10 years. This includes on the engine with T/W ratio of over 10. Other than stealth technology, avionics technology have also advanced a lot. He expects that China's 5th generation plane to be in service in 5 to 8 years. It's kind of interesting, because he also mentionned that J-14 will appear in 5 years.

Clearly, China did not participate in the 5th generation project with the Russians because it felt that it could develop it on its own. We had expected for a long time that China would work with the Russians with the 5th generation engine, but it turns out that WS-15 is progressing well enough that they feel an indigenous solution is good enough. If WS-15 is not ready, an upgraded WS-10 could be used first. I know that turbofan has always been a sore point with China. But now, it seems like WS-13 is progressing faster than a lot of people estimated and might even go in production next year.

As mentionned in the past, it seems that CAC is getting much of the design work for the 5th generation project. Now, it's encouraging, because a lot of technologies on 5th generation could be tested on upgraded J-10 first. So, one can expect the so called upgraded J-10 to be holding down the fort until the 5th generation plane gets developed. It's interesting, 2015 has often been noted as the date that this plane will come out. However, another really important project in the form of anti-air UCAV is probably just as important, but is less publicized. From Anjian's appearance in recent air shows, it's quite clear that China is working on anti-air UCAV a lot earlier than Western air forces. There are some obvious advantage and disadvantages to UCAVs in this role. Whether China can make a cost effective and useful UCAV is a huge question. There is no doubt that such a weapon could be huge in a possible conflict with Taiwan.

Recently, We've seen the Indians sign the 5th generation contract with the Russians. Clearly, China would've participated in the project somehow, if they felt their own product would come out quite a bit after the Russians. Some may say that China is doing because they want to protect their own industry. The reality is that China is so desperate for something to counter F-22/35, that waiting an extra 5 years for a 5th generation jet is a price that I don't think they are willing to pay. So, the Chinese jet will probably come out at around the same time as the Russian one. One thing is for sure. China will not have any kind of money problem.

Monday, November 26, 2007

My opinion toward Pinkov's latest article

I hope everyone had a good thanksgiving. I certainly had some good time at Las Vegas. Anyhow, there was a lot of stuff coming out this weekend regarding JH-7A. It seems like a new upgraded variant of JH-7 might be coming out. We are seeing the current JH-7A being advertised along with a EW version of JH-7. I'd like to examine it at a future blog, but Pinkov's latest article regarding flankers actually provoked more of my interest today. If you guys have read this yet, it goes something like this.

Analysis: China eyes new Russian tech

by Andrei Chang
Hong Kong (UPI) Nov 23, 2007
A Chinese military source based in Beijing has said the People's Liberation Army Air Force is negotiating with the Russian Sukhoi Aircraft Company on three new projects.
Military observers based in Moscow and Beijing say they believe the recent nadir of military cooperation between China and Russia is only temporary. China will have to rely on Russia to develop its military technologies, as Beijing has no other alternative.

The first new project involves Su-33 shipborne fighters. Experts from the Russian aviation industry are convinced that China is about to start the construction of an aircraft carrier.

"Up to the present, on the issue of the Su-33, China and Sukhoi have had three rounds of negotiations and have reached some agreement," said the source.

Nonetheless, he did not disclose what specific progress has been made in the negotiations, merely confirming that additional rounds of talks will be held. A high-level source from Sukhoi confirmed his company is most interested in discovering whether the Chinese want to purchase whole Su-33 fighters or only require Su-33 parts, and whether they will request the transfer of production technology or design blueprints.

Other sources from the Chinese military industry said that several plans were involved in the negotiations on the Su-33. One of them is that China will buy a small number of Su-33, say 10 to 24, and later request that production technologies be transferred. However, the Chinese strategy is to use some of the Su-33 technology to develop their own shipborne fighter based on the J-11B assembled domestically.

The second project under negotiation involves the newest Su-35 fighter. At the MAKS 2007 International Aviation and Space Salon held at the Zhukovsky Air Base near Moscow in August, Chinese delegates took photos and videos of the Su-35 virtually every day.

"Several Chinese delegations have visited Sukhoi and raised technical questions," the Sukhoi company representative said. He said the two sides have reached a consensus and are now working on export plans.

"At least in the foreseeable future, China's indigenous aviation technologies will not be able to produce combat aircraft similar to the Su-35," he said. "Our attitude on this issue is the same as the case of the Su-33; that is, we are only interested in exporting whole Su-35s. This is not what the Chinese delegates hoped for. They hoped to import only certain subsystems, for instance the radar systems or the engines."

The third project concerns the PLA Navy's plan to import more Su-30MK2 fighters, or upgraded variants of the aircraft. No progress has been made on this as yet, however. A plan for China to import Su-30MK3 fighters, which was negotiated earlier, has not been carried out so far.

The possibility that the navy will continue importing Su-30MK2s or Su-30MK3s appears slim, mainly because it has already started to receive China-made JH-7A fighters. Meanwhile, the upgrade of the J-11B fighter aircraft has been very comprehensive. The fighter is now capable of launching precision attacks on battleships, and can basically meet the combat requirements of the navy fleet. China may not resume the import of Su-30MK2s unless the cost of the J-11B remains too high or comes close to the cost of the Su-30MK2.

Is there any possibility that the PLA Air Force may upgrade its existing Su-30MK2s and J-11s, or the Indian Air Force's Su-30MKIs, to a combat platform close to the Su-35 standard?

Yury Bely, a general designer at Russia's NIIP Radar Design Bureau, agreed to discuss the question. "It is impossible to import the Su-35's radar system only," he said. Bely stressed that it would be more feasible to import brand new Su-35s than to try upgrading the Su-30MK2.

The Su-35 is equipped with the H035 passive phased array radar system, which has extremely powerful detection capability, Bely pointed out. The average output power of this radar is 5 kW, with peak output at 20 kW; thus the output power of the Su-30MKI and Su-30MK2 would be insufficient. When the H035 radar was tested on Su-30MK No. 503, the detection range was as far as 290 kilometers with 1 kW power output, he said.

I have to start by saying that I'm not anti-Russian or anti-Sukhoi or anything like that, but I do believe that Sukhoi's involvement with Chinese aviation is overstated.

Pinkov have wrote numerous articles regarding Sukhoi's dealing with China in Kanwa Defence Monthly (in fact like once every 2 months).

First, I think the third project should no longer be discussed at this point. China is clearly not interested in any more mkk. Simply put, PLA is more satisfied toward JH-7A than the MKKs at this point. JH-7A has better fuel efficiency, better avionics and a much better selection of weapons to choose from.

As for the second project, I can see why people would think that China want Su-35. After all, Russia is not likely to be able to offer and deliver PAK-FA to China before 2015. And most likely, it will not be available for export until 2020. Until then, su-35 is the only thing that Russia can offer to China. It seems that Russia has caught on that China is interested in 117S engine and Irbis radar. However, as in all cases, China is only interested in the technology rather than the plane itself. Of course, Russia knows that, so it's trying to package the rest of the plane and even brought up upgrading mkk with Irbis. As mentionned previously, China has tested out Irbis (even mentionned by JDW) and the result is that it is not as good as advertised. Besides, is it even believable that they can go from the 180 km detection range for Zhuk-MSE and upgraded Bars vs 5 sqm targets to 400 km vs 3 sqm targets? Not to mention that Russian radar have traditionally not being all that stealthy and makes it easier for passive radar to detect it. It is better than what China has right now, but what about in 3 to 5 years when China might get its first su-35? Will it be that advanced by then? And there is no question that China is interested in more advanced variants of AL-31, since WS-10A's maturity and production level still hasn't reached the required level. However, it seems like China is far more interested in the AL-31FM series. It has pretty much purchased this engine for J-10 + su-27 upgrades. It has signed up even contract with Salyut to do assembly of this engine series in Shenyang Liming (with ToT according to Chinese sources). Having said that, will su-35 really be better than J-11B in 3-5 years? And secondly, does China really need su-35? Will it provide any additional capability that China does not have? I would say that J-11B can be every bit as good as su-35 (especially in A2A combat) by that time. J-11B's T/W ratio can certainly be as good as su-35 with its weight reduction from su-27 and increased thrust on WS-10A. The much touted RCS reduction techniques on su-35 can and probably have already been applied on J-11B. In addition, things like modern quadriplex FBW, MAW, holographic HUD and MFDs have been incorporated on J-11B. Other than the current advantage for Irbis, does su-35 really have any avionics advantages over J-11B? And more importantly, su-35 will just be another plane that will be crushed by F-22/35 in any likely war scenario. Sure, it can match up against modern variants of the teen series, but so can J-11B. With AWACS like KJ-2000 supporting J-11B, what kind of advantages does su-35 really offer over J-11B?

Finally, China has certainly selected the flanker series for its naval fighters. Although J-10 offers a better A2A platform, it certainly doesn't have the range or payload of flankers. China has already purchased a T-10K from Ukraine for study. Chinese rumour has it that China also got 2 su-33 for testing purposes. Now, it certainly makes not a lot of sense for China to just buy su-33s, because it would not be able to use Chinese missiles and bombs. So, the only option I see in terms of export is if China is allowed to integrate its own set of avionics and missiles on this naval product.

In the end, I'm sure there are a lot of conversations between China and Sukhoi. However, China does not need Sukhoi right now. Su-35 and modern variants of su-33 have not been fully developed yet. And they are not revolutionary machinery that China cannot get in the next few years. China will continue to contact Sukhoi to try to get as much help as possible, but any big purchases are unlikely in the future. J-10 remains the front line and work horse fighter for PLA. Flankers will get plenty of orders with its greater range and potential as a multi-role aircraft, but its orders will certainly not come close to that of J-10.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Latest photos

It's kind of interesting that we finally got confirmation of the 2nd PLAAF regiments of JH-7A. A while back when the mysterious new JH-7A regiment came out, many of us suspected that it is the 5th division and it turned out to be true. I guess it's replacing one of the Q-5 regiments.

We also saw some new pictures of Varyag coming out. And disappointingly, it seemed to have no change from previous pictures. This is supposedly taken at the end of last month.

The other semi-exciting news that we got is the SSF exercise. As we see in this link, there are many ships involved in this exercise. The article said that

in the middle of November, SSF used more than 10 ships and planes to go through a realistic exercise using real troops, real missiles. The exercise were under extremely complex electronic environment and bad weather. This is to train new techniques, new doctrine, new cooperation. This will allow the combat capability to go up for the fleet.

To me, most of that is just propaganda, but it was definitely extremely exciting to see the AK-630s on the 022s firing off. This is not on this link, but we saw in some of the other pictures coming out of the exercise. Another interesting thing is that we saw 054 and Sov also involved in the exercise. You can see that if you click on the other pages in that link. The article doesn't change, but the pictures do. So, it seems to be a combination of both the East and South Sea Fleet. That's definitely something we don't see everyone day.

And finally, it has caught my attention that I seem to be relying too much on Chinese sources. It should be noted that I'm presenting these "rumours" not as my own belief, but rather interesting rumours that people might be interested in know. Whether one accept them or not is a different story, but that should not prevent them from having the chance to decide. While I cannot say that the sources of the rumours are perfect. From personal experiences, they are some of the more accurate ones out there. And in all honesty, far better sources than Kanwa and JDW. I read both of which (Kanwa every month) and continue to shake my head at the commentary. Those who have debated with me in the past probably knows how I feel about different sources when it comes to PLA.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Latest from PLAN

It looks like the first Luda (105) has recently been decommissioned. It's kind of interesting that this decommissioned destroyer is actually even smaller than 054A. Quite good to see that China's classification of vessel sizes has finally begun to match the international level. Anyhow, we saw some photos of HP shipyard recently, looks like the second 054A in HP is almost ready to join a fleet somewhere. The first 054A on both HD and HP are already serving in SSF as 569 and 570. Same with 071, which is recently named as the KunLunShan class.

Also, looks like the 3rd 054A at HP might be a bit away. They are building a new dock in HP shipyard. The next 054A might not start until the dock is finished. I guess they are saving money for the carrier project.
Speaking of which, there are some rumours recently that the carrier projects will start in both Dalian and Shanghai shipyards. I'm not surprised that two will be built, but I didn't think Dalian would get any work. Also, the cost was put at 30 billion RMB each, so around 4 billion USD. I'm not sure what this includes (ie: R&D cost or not). They are supposedly looking for something that is 60k+ in standard displacement, 317 m long, 70+ m wide and can carry 55+ aircrafts (of which 30+ J-11Cs, some number of helicopters and possibly Y-7 AEWs) I know 4 billion is cheaper US carriers, but this one is smaller than CVN-77 and uses older technology. Another thing is that Chinese ships are just cheaper to build. For example, each 054A only costs 1.58 billion RMB and each 022 only costs about 100 million RMB. At this point, I'd generally take the cost rumours with a grain of salt. However, the carrier dimensions is from a much better source and seems to be comparable to Varyag dimensions (although a little larger). I do expect to see catapults on the first generation of Chinese carriers. Otherwise, beginning Y-7 AEW development at this time frame simply does not make sense. So, hopefully we will start seeing some pictures coming out for carrier construction late next year.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A tad more on 054A

Just found some interesting tidbits on PLAN CIWS while reading up on some sources. Seems as if China had evaluated Kashtan as early as 1992. Somehow, it was not overly impressed by certain part of Kashtan like its system reaction time and muzzle velocity. Despite the greater rate of fire of Kashtan, Goalkeeper and Seamos were preferred in the two area that probably improves engagements vs supersonic sea-skimmers. We've seen pictures like this indicating that China is developing a Kashtan-like system:

Clearly, they do appreciate the concept of mixing short ranged SAM with CIWS. However, the performance of both the gun and the missile must be satisfactory against fast low altitude missiles. We see a system like LD-2000 in service for the army, but no such system for the navy. Why? The army is encountering helicopters, low flying aircrafts and subsonic missiles. TY-90 can encounter those, but it can't encounter something like Brahmos.

Now, back to Type 730 CIWS. Interestingly enough, it uses different fire control system than Goalkeeper and Seamos. Goalkeeper uses one radar to search and another radar to do the engagements. Seamos uses Infrared seeker to do search and TV tracking camera to do the engagements. By comparison, I believe Kashtan uses one radar to search and engages with radar or TV tracker. Type 730 combined the strength of Goalkeeper and Seamos by using TR-47C to do searching and using the combination of TV tracking camera, infrared tracking camera and laser rangefinder to do the engagement guidance. It is certainly not cheap to add all these extra "eyes" to the system, but certainly makes the tracking/engagement of Type 730 better than the other two.

As for the reaction time, this is what is stated on the official site for Kashtan -> 6 to 8 seconds. That makes sense since the reaction of Tunguska-M is stated to be around 8 seconds. The Chinese sources were using 6.5s to 7 for the reaction time of Kashtan. Goalkeeper on the other hand, has a reaction time of 5.5s vs supersonic missiles. Type 730 should be around 5.5s too.

The other interesting question that has been asked is why 054 uses 4 AK-630M instead of 2 Type 730. From all evidences, each Type 730 should be stronger than 2 AK-630M. The reasons often stated are cost and putting familiar weapon system on a new hull. Another reason that was brought up is that 054 simply did not have the power to supply 2 Type 730.

Also, it's interesting to look at the fire control system of the guns of 054.

It is clearly a fusion of the rice lamp radar, the E/O tracker + the Type 360 search radar. As part of the combat system, FCU-17 gets data from information console + radar input from the E/O tracker and rice lamp radar. And uses that to control the AK-630Ms and 100 mm gun. I always found it interesting that someone questioned the data fusion of 054A, when clearly system such as JRNG shows data fusion even for naval guns that look like what's used on Poyma-E

They combine radar data from multiple sources, process them, display aerial/surface data on multiple consoles. And then these information can be used to do the engagements.

I would expect 054A to use a far more advanced combat system + a more advance fire control system for naval gun + a more advanced FCS for HH-16. In both cases, each of the sensors may be used as radar inputs for multiple FCS. Whether that is plot level or track level data fusion remains to be seen.

You might have noticed that I spent much of the time on the air defense of 054A. The truth is that 054A provides the counter against multiple sea-skimmers that doesn't currently exist in PLAN. 051C and 052C are probably more used against the horde of incoming naval strike planes rather than the actual missiles. 054A in that sense provides the middle level air defense coverage that is currently lacking in PLAN. We've already seen two 054As joining the South Sea Fleet (one as 570 and the other we don't know). They are clearly badly needed for the air defense. As for ASuW, it doesn't differ much from 051C. It has the same OTH radar, datalink and missiles. In terms of ASW, this is where most of the criticism for the ship has come from. In many ways, it seems like PLAN is not putting much emphasis on ASW for surface fleet. It remains to be seen whether or future 054 will be equipped with towed array sonar. Or maybe they will continue to rely on 093 for all major ASW tasks.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

More on 054A

SR-64 is one of the less known, but extremely important sensors on PLAN ships. We see it on 052B/C, 051C, 054A, 071 and 054. Although no formal information is out on SR-64, it is generally believed to have the scan rate and computational power needed to track multiple low flying supersonic anti-ship missiles. A commonly flown figure is that it has a detection range of 12 KM against sea-skimmers. There is also the more improbable figure of 100 km posted by Koxinga of CDF. Either way, it's location, scan rate, radar band all point to its role as tracking sea-skimmers. Many people have suspected that it has the same role as the radar that looks like Bandstand on Kashtan equipped ships. However, we've seen SR-64 on 071 and 054, which do not have Type 730 CIWS. It's clear that track or plot data from SR-64 goes into the combat system rather than straight into Type 730 CIWS. At the moment, it's a little unclear which sensor provides the mid-course update for the missiles. It could be the light-bulb datalink, which provides mid-course update for Anti-ship missiles, but maybe also provide update for HH-16. The Sea Eagle search radar, with its 12 rpm scan rate, does not seem to have the necessary refresh rate to provide updates for HH-16. SR-64 may have the additional responsibility of mid-course update on top of tracking sea-skimmers and surface targets. Or, some other less known sensor may be providing the mid-course updates. If continuous illuminations of FCRs is required, only a maximum of 4 targets can be engaged with 8 missiles. Since only terminal illuminations is required, 054A can theoretically engage against 8 targets simultaneously (although much less in actual practice) with the number of missiles limited by the number that can be launched during that time frame and also be limited by the number that the system can provide mid-course update for. Either way, we can conclude that 054A at the current time has much better multi-target engagement capabilities than prior PLAN ships with HH-16.

The often overlooked part of 054A's air defense are Type 730 CIWS and AK-176M. I wrote several posts on SDF in the past on Type 730's capabilities. Many people believe that Type 730 is inferior to Kashtan, because it does not have the gun+missile combination of Kashtan. In reality, PLAN was never too impressed by the performance of Kashtan in test trials. In terms of sensors, it has its own FCR + E/O tracker like Goalkeeper, Palma and Kashtan. And I think we can safely assume that it is integrated into the air defense system with all the sensors. The help of SR-64 would be extremely vital for Type 730. Especially in the case of 052C, where Type 730 CIWS pretty much has to deal with all sea-skimmers below 10 m, SR-64's main data recipient will probably be Type 730 CIWS. Although, with its own high frequency FCR and E/O tracker, it can track and shoot down targets independently. At this moment, I do not have the figures on Type 730 CIWS. Although, it is believed that Type 730 CIWS can encounter multiple supersonic missiles like Goalkeeper. I've read an article that has detailed account of Goalkeeper's performance versus multiple targets, but the only place online that seems to have this is this link. A good description is as follows:
This system can track up to thirty targets, engaging the four most urgent. It will minimize the salvo length to engage as many targets as possible and is thought to be able to deal with two pairs of sea-skimming missiles as little as five seconds apart.

It is generally believed that Type 730 CIWS was required to at least match, if not exceed, the performance of Goalkeeper. Which means, with the help of on-board sensors, each Type 730 CIWS can handle 4 or 5 concurrent sea skimmers.

Finally, the most overlooked part of 054A's air defense is probably AK-176M. The one overly hyped main gun that everyone seems to know about is the Oto Melara super rapid 76 mm gun. It seems like China evaluated Oto 76 with French 100 mm pre-TianAnMen Square and decided at that time, the 100 mm was better. Later, they evaluated between AK-176 and French 100 mm and preferred AK-176. To bring out some of the reasonings used (copied off my original SDF translations):
  • they originally compared oto 76 with the 100 mm naval gun to see which one was better to import and they picked 100 mm one and AK-176 turned out to have even more advantages.
  • at that time, OTO-76 did not have the automation level of 100 mm gun. at that time, it was also easier for China to develop guided munitions for 100 mm. And 054's 100 mm was simplified by over 40% in sensors, but it's high speed shooting reliability is not good
  • Firing rate and muzzle velocity are extremely important for China due to the requirement to counter anti-ship missiles. That's where AK-176M has serious advantage.
  • China started to develop 76 mm around 92 to 94. After improving on AK-176, it did not bother to look at the super rapid OTO-76. The muzzle velocity of OTO-76 is 920 m/s, whereas AK-176 is 980 m/s. Over 5000 m, the flight time is 2.5 second shorter. Also AK-176 fires off 10 more rounds.
  • After china improved on AK-176M, it is much faster at replacing rounds than OTO-76. Auto-reload is important, the improve AK-176 can achieve reload in no time, whereas OTO-76 is behind here
  • You can always improve on sensors/automation (newer electronics) and projectile guidance (use newer rounds), but muzzle velocity, firing rate and reloading speed are extremely important too.
  • Also, the figure given for accuracy is only for single round 1000 m. When firing 60 to 90 consecutive shots, there is no difference. Also, AK-176's munition is better than OTO, as it can better defend against multiple targets in high threat environment.
I can't testify to every statement made there, but most of it did make sense to me when I first read it. Either way, China put AK-176M and a brand new FCR (different from the 100 mm's FCR) on 054A and 071, so it must be quite impressed with their performance.

Theoretically speaking, each 054A has the capability to track many targets at different flight profiles (even the fast + low ones) and also the capability to engage many of them at the same time. It's clearly quite an advanced air defense frigate (although not as sophisticated as those European "AAW frigate"). With the next set of 054 sensors currently on 891 undergoing tests, it would be interesting to see how much more capable the next batch of 054A will be. I'm looking forward to update more on Type 730 CIWS and 054A sensors + other parts like it ASuW and ASW capability in a future post. Until then, I hope this gives a good initial overview on 054A's air defense capabilities.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Latest rumour coming out of the PLAAF land

I'd like to finish up on 054A, but there are certain air force related matters that I want to go over.

As you have all probably noticed, there was a Russian report that China will deliver 24 J-10s to Iran. Now, I have to say that the original report was full of errors just in terms of its description of J-10. It basically called J-10 a clone of Lavi (which is not close to the truth). Of course, the Israeli and American news services picked up on this and harped on China's betrayal of Israel's help. They also made sure readers noticed that American tax dollars are not only spent on J-10, but will also be forwarded to Iran, their enemy. Aside from the obvious part that the Israelis stopped helping the J-10 project in 1995 (first flight didn't come until 1998), people fail to realize that J-10 would've been completed eventually with or without the Israeli help (although there is no doubt that the Israeli assistance sped up the development process). There are several reasons why China would not sell J-10 at this point:
  1. China does not export its best technology (similar to USA and Russia). In fact, several years back, the Iranians were interested in J-8F. However, China was only willing to offer F-8IIM, so the deal fell through. Until J-11B is fully in service J-10 is by far China's most powerful aerial threat. If they would not even export J-8F to Iran, why would they export J-10?
  2. The risk of J-10 falling into American hands is too great. If J-10 is exported to Iran, then the likelihood of it falling into American hands after a confrontation against Iran is extremely high. In that case, US would be able to take it back, examine the aircraft and get all of its performance parameters. Once that happens, the effectiveness of current and future J-10 would be significantly reduced. In fact, it is actually more beneficial to US if J-10 gets exported to Iran (especially considering the likelihood of military action against it).
  3. If JF-17 is good enough for Iran, why would J-10 need to be exported. In fact, Iran was always expected to be the largest JF-17 customer outside of Pakistan. There have even been talks of an assembly line for JF-17 in Iran.
  4. China has also apparently helped Iran on Shafaq and its indigenous F-5. It can do a lot of business with Iran without having to sell its most advanced fighter, why would it do it?
  5. There is also the recent sanction by US on IRG. It's possible that any Chinese companies dealing with IRG will get sanctions. Would companies like SAC and CAC sacrifice their contracting jobs with Boeing just to make a few bucks with Iran?
In general, I think there are simply too many factors against such a move.

There have also been some rumours out regarding China's 5th generation fighter. The latest word is that SAC did not win the competition as many had suspected. Rather, it is a combined effort with CAC. In fact, it seems CAC is getting the lion share of the design work. Now, it's likely that the assembly line in Shenyang (112) will be in charge of the main final assembly rather than the one in Chengdu (132). Make a note, there is a difference between the design bureau (601 for SAC, 611 for CAC) and the actual factory producing the aircraft (112 for SAC and 132 for CAC). Due to Shenyang's experience producing heavy fighters like J-11, it might get the final assembly order, but that remains to be seen. If this is the case, then CAC might not put as much resource into the much talked about twin-engined J-10 project. Either way, there are a lot of projects for both SAC and CAC in the coming years.

Another recent rumour is the existence of JH-7B variant, but I'm still waiting for more photos to come out on that.

Finally, it seems like Russians have cut off Shenyang for the components to J-11, because they are worried that China will not make any orders for su-35, if J-11B becomes to successful (too late in my mind). But as it turns out, the domestic suppliers have stepped up and it hasn't been a problem. In fact, a recent avic1 article talked about J-11 changing engines. I'm not sure if it's talking about equipping new J-11Bs with WS-10A or just swapping older flankers with WS-10A. You can find the article here:
本报讯 近日,中国一航沈阳飞机设计研究所提前完成型号飞机换装发动机及鉴定试飞,飞机顺利转场;取得阶段性成果。一航沈阳所所长、型号总师孙聪荣获中国一航“总经理特别奖”。






It says that it takes one month from the start of changing engine to the end of flight test. Looks like J-11B has is finally fully indigenous.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

054A Air Defense

The most important part of 054A's Air defense is probably it's HH-16 medium ranged SAM. In order to understand it, one probably should look at Shtil system. The setup of HH-16 air defense on 054A is similar in most aspects to that of SA-N-7 on Sov, so we can start by studying some of the articles on that system. Then we will look at Shtil VLU for further guidance on the performance of a VLS system over a traditional launcher. Please right click to see the article more clearly, they are written in Chinese:

Shtil (SA-N-7) was developed in the 80s with bombers, fighter-bombers, fighters, helicopters and different types of missiles to counter in mind. On each of the Soviet 956, there are launchers of 24 missiles on both front and end of the ship. It is similar to MK-13 launching SM-1. There are 6 illuminators per ship to allow for engagements against 6 targets. In early 90s, improved shtil (SA-N-12) was developed and each system costs $15 million (not including the missiles) in 1993.

Each system consists of a 3D search radar (Top Plate), Illuminators, Optronic directors (IRST?), tracking distribution machine, target display machine, firing control machine, central processing computer, missiles, launcher,

Diagram of the system, Top Plate has search and tracking mode. In search/Early warning mode, the data is collected for OK-10B and then passed to central processing machine. In tracking mode, the targets are distributed by 2 NKO machine to 12 display terminals. These tracking data goes to the central processing machine. There are 4 optronic or TV seekers, their data can be displayed on display terminal and also passed to the central processor.
The 6 illuminators operate on C band, with 4 kW average power output and 1.2 tonne in weight. They use continuous wave illumination to illuminate one target each.

NKO divides display into 8x12=96 area. It can send the target info to any of the 12 OH-4 display terminal.
There are 12 such terminals, each one can display the information of 2 targets.
4 OT-10 TV display and is used under strong ECM environment and TV seeker is doing the main tracking.

OK-10 fire control terminal. It has two display, allowing for selection of engagement against most dangerous targets.

More up close display, shows 2 UBK central processors

This system is an improvement over previous generation since it combined the searching and tracking to one radar with Top Plate. It uses parabolic pass to encounter low altitude target and shows good performance against sea clutter and other distractions. System is modular, can have anywhere from 2 to 12 fire channels.

Talks about SA-N-12's improvements including adding inertial correction (middle course update), updates to illuminator and different missile components, new target recognition technology?, increased length by 0.2m (and range to 38 km).
It fire 30 missiles in tests. 5 of which are against AShM traveling at 3 m and they all hit the target.

List some critical stats of SA-N-7 and they include:
  • max 25 km range vs planes flying at over 1000 m and 18 km vs planes under 1000 m, min is 3.5 km. Altitude is 15 m to 15 km
  • max 12 km vs missiles less than mach 2 and 8-9 km vs missiles more than mach 2, min range is 3.5 km. Altitude is 10 m to 10 km
  • system reaction is 16 to 19 s and preparation time is less than 3 minutes
  • Rate of fire is 14 s with 1 launcher and 7 s with 2 launchers
  • Kill probability using 2 missiles is 0.81 to 0.96 against planes + 0.43 to 0.86 against missiles
  • Top Plate figures include 360 degree coverage in azimuth and 45 degree in elevation, 200 km range against 2 sqm fighter targets and 0.75 x radar horizon against 0.1 sqm missile targets (It's around 0.9 x radar horizon when missile altitude <= 10 m)

This part compares SA-N-12 to Shtil VLU. As you can see, the rate of fire sped up from 12 s to 2 s. That's the main difference with using VLS instead of conventional launcher. Clearly, SA-N-12 is a significant improvement over SA-N-7 in terms of engaging sea-skimmers.

Russia moves to vertical-launch Shtil
Miroslav Gyürösi

Russia is offering a vertical-launch (VL) version of the Shtil-1 naval surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, writes Miroslav Gyürösi. The move from a system based on trainable launchers to one based on below-deck VL modules is similar to that taken by the US Navy in the mid-1980s when it switched from a Mk 26 trainable launcher to a VL system for the sixth and subsequent Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruisers.

Russian Public Joint Stock Company DNPP (Dolgoprudnenskoye naucsno - proizvodstvennoye predpriyatie), which is part of the Almaz-Antey Air Defence Concern, developed the new 9M317ME SAM as an upgrade for the Shtil-1 naval air-defence system. Developed by the Altair Naval Radio Electronics Scientific Institute Public Joint Stock Company, which is also a member of the Almaz-Antey Air Defence Concern, Shtil-1 is an improved version of the earlier Shtil system that is the export variant of the M-22 Uragan system fitted to the Project 956 (Sovremenny-class) destroyers.

The 9M38 missile was developed in the 1970s to be a common round for the land-based 9K37 Buk (SA-11 'Gadfly') and naval Uragan/Shtil (SA-N-7 'Gadfly') system. It used a configuration similar to that of the US Standard Missile, with cruciform wings of long chord and short span, plus cruciform tail surfaces. In the land-based system, the 9M38 was fired from 9A38 and 9A310 self-propelled launch vehicles, while the naval Shtil and Shtil-1 systems used a trainable launcher fed by a below-deck loading system based on 12-cell drum magazines.

In the early 1990s, development started on an improved 9M317 missile able to replace the 9M38. This armed the Buk-M1-2 (SA-17 'Grizzly') system, which entered service with the Russian Army in 1998. The 9M317 was similar in configuration to the 9M38 but the cruciform wings were of much smaller chord and span.

The new 9M317ME missile is being marketed as a further development of the older 9M38 and 9M317 but the changes are on a scale that makes the round almost a new missile. It is designed to be fired from a cylindrical container/launcher mounted in a cell within the new Shtil-1 VL system. This arrangement provides a much higher rate of fire than the original trainable launcher and magazine system used in Shtil and Shtil-1. The latter could fire a missile every six seconds, but the 9M317ME-based system being offered for Sovremenny-class destroyers can fire rounds at one-to-two-second intervals.

The new launch technique has required drastic changes to the configuration of the missile. The long-chord wings have been replaced by vestigial fixed surfaces located not on the missile centrebody but near the rear of the airframe just ahead of the cruciform tail surfaces. These fixed surfaces may be intended to control the airflow passing the tail fins. The latter move to steer the missile - the same control scheme used on the 9M38 - but are folded to allow the round to be stored in the container/launcher.

The 9M317ME is 5.18 m long and 360 mm in diameter. The tail surfaces have a span of 820 mm when deployed.

After the round leaves the VL, a spring mechanism unfolds the tail surfaces and four gas-control vanes operating in the motor efflux turn the missile towards the required direction of flight. Once this turnover manoeuvre is completed, the gas-control vanes are no longer used. Subsequent flight control is via the moving tail surfaces.

A dual-mode solid-propellant rocket motor based on a more energetic charge than that used in the 9M38 provides the missile with a maximum speed of Mach 4.5 (1,550 m/s), a significant increase over the Mach 3.0 (1,230 m/s) of the older missile.

Guidance remains a combination of inertial and semi-active radar (SAR) homing. Inertial guidance is used in the early stages of flight and then the SAR seeker is activated to complete the interception. If the missile is being fired against long-range targets, it can receive mid-course updates while flying under inertial control. Launch weight of the 9M317ME is 581 kg. It is armed with a 62 kg warhead initiated by a dual-mode (active or semi-active) radar proximity fuze, or a contact fuze.

The range of the modernised Shtil-1 system is between 3.5-32 km, while the altitude coverage is from 5 m up to 15 km. These limits are set not by the performance of the missile but by the capabilities of the existing shipboard illuminating radars. This suggests further growth potential if the system is upgraded or if new radars are added.

The VL version of Shtil-1 is being offered for surface ships with displacement of more than 1,500 tonnes, providing protection against aircraft, helicopters, fast patrol boats and anti-ship missiles. It can also control the ship's guns. Publicly, no claims are being made for an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) capability, but the land-based 3M317 missile is reported to have successfully engaged Smerch artillery rockets and a ballistic missile during tests conducted in the mid-1990s. The VL system's ability to cope with tactical ballistic-missile threats may be limited by the performance of the existing shipboard radars.

The basic VL module contains 12 9M317ME missiles but, as with the unmodified Shtil and Shtil-1 systems, the upgrade is being offered in a series of optional configurations, which add greater numbers of MR-90 Orekh ('Front Dome') target-illumination radars and additional VL modules. All variants use target information from the ship's 3D surveillance radar.

Vertical-launch Shtil-1 configurations

Technical characteristic Option number
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Reaction time, [seconds] 5 - 10 5 - 10 5 - 10 5 - 10 5 - 10 5 - 10 5 - 10 5 - 10
Firing interval [seconds] 2 - 3 2 - 3 2 - 3 1 - 2 1 - 2 1 - 2 1 - 2 1 - 2
Number of target channels 2 4 4 6 8 8 10 12
Magazine capacity [rounds] 12 24 36 48 - 72 72 108 108 - 144 144
Number of VL modules 1 2 3 4 - 6 6 9 9 - 12 12

It mentions numerous things, but an interesting stats is the bottom table. This shows reaction time of 5 to 10 s + firing rate of 1-3 s. The shtil VLU is clearly a significant improvement over the original shtil.

So, what does this mean for 054A?
First, the Sea Eagle search radar is generally believed to be newer and more powerful than Top Plate radar. It is an evolution of the Sea Eagle radar on the lone 051B. An article chronically the development process of this radar said that it went through the most grueling testing process of any naval radar in Chinese history. The title of the article states that it can "see over 500 km away". That sounds even longer than S1850M, which has much larger antenna. Even so, it does seem to be upgrade vs different targets in terms of range and reliability of detection. Here is a picture of a series of Chinese radars.

Here is what the radar on 052B, 054A and test ship 891 looks like

It seems 891's search radar has more rows of antenna than 054A, which has more rows of antenna than 052B. From the previous picture, it would indicate that 052B is operating on E band (like it should, since it's Top Plate), 054A and 891's search radar look like they operating on different bands or possibly using different scanning methods. Either way, the pictures show that 054A's radar should be superior to that of 052B and the new one 891 is trying out should be even better. Another item of interest are the FCR, SA-N-12 was said to only need illumination during the terminal stage of engagement. At the same time, each FCR are improved so that they have two channels and can engage two targets that are "close by". The ones on 054A and 891 are said to also be able to engage two targets. Another big part of the sensory unit is the SR-64 radar, which I have talked about extensively in previous blogs. I think it could be the on-board tracking radar for Type 730 CIWS like the one that looks like bandstand for Kashtan CIWS, although we've also seen it on 071, which only has AK-630 and AK-176. Either way, I think it's integrated into the combat system as part of HH-16 air defense. Other sensors in the suite include the IRST that is installed on the front mast and what looks to be an E/O tracker placed closed to the bandstand radar. Although, that sensor looks different from the E/O tracker we see on 054 and 022. Either way, 054A has a whole set of sensors that are generally speaking far more advanced than what was on 956 and more advanced than what was placed on 052B.

And the final question is what level of data fusion there is. From the SA-N-7 system diagram, it's clear that it has tracking level integration between the optronic sensors and Top Plate. One question that was challenged to me a while back is whether or not it has plot level integration. We know that the system reaction time has improved from 16-19 s to 5-10 s for SA-N-12. Most of that is probably due to the much better sensors, but it could also be due to a plot level integration. Either way, we have data fusion on 052C between the 4 large AESA radar panels, so we know that such technology is possible for 054A. And we have also seen 891 testing the entire air defense suite (see previous blogs), which suggestion a high level of integration between all of the sensors involved. Therefore, we can only say at the present time that 054A has at least tracking level integration and might have plot level integration also.

Finally, if I was to go through certain performance parameter on HH-16, I would say that the system reaction time and launch rate are probably close to that of VLU shtil. A launch rate of 2s per launch is probably expected from a VLS unit. I would expect the system reaction time to be around 6 to 7 s, since that is the figure often used for the export version of HH-7. These are certainly tremendous improvements over the original shtil. As for the range of HH-16, it's often been stated as to be more than that of HQ-2. I would say that's quite likely, since HH-16's best comparison is probably ESSM with USN. Now, the range against different types of target like fighters and anti-ship missiles will probably be similar to that of Shtil. I would expect the requirements for HH-16 to be at least as good as the latest shtil or else China would've just equipped with shtil. Based on the above stats of shtil, you can get a good idea of HH-16's performance. Although it's interesting that the size of HH-16 VLS indicates that the missile itself is smaller than shtil (which is almost 600 kg).

There is also Type 730 CIWS and AK-176M left on 054A, which I will try to go through with the next article.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Nuclear submarines

I'm sure everyone who follows PLA has seen the recent GE pictures for 094s and also clear photos of 094. I think it was a surprise for many to see 3 094 parked outside in broad daylight (about the same length and clearly larger than original 092). Personally, I'm not knowledgeable enough about submarines to provide analysis on how advanced these boats are or how quiet they are.

Therefore, I thought I'd share some comments made by certain credible poster on Chinese military bbs. Now, I'm not saying they are not necessarily true, but they have made good impressions in the past.

The points are as follows:
  • There are 3 of these 094s, but there are also another SSBN at work that does not have the humps. Apparently, that SSBN is being worked on right now at Huludao (called 094 Type 2)
  • There are at least two 092s and they will be converted to SSGNs. Each tube can hold 3 to 5 LACMs (I guess DH-10 or something like that)
  • There are 5 093s as 2005, I guess either undergoing sea tests or commissioned.
  • The first 095 or 093G is being worked on and will be launched by 2010.
  • They are expected to have 8 093/095s by 2010
  • Another 2 094s are expected by 2010
I'm not sure what we can say at the moment except that there are 094s that may or may not be commissioned. The number of 5 093s seem at least logical to give us an almost 2:1 ratio of SSNs to SSBNs (including 3 091G and 1-2 092). Huludao seems to be building nuclear subs at an extremely rapid pace. And 093 and 094 designs must be pretty formalized for them to allow so many pictures coming out.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

JF-17 and PLAAF

I've been thinking about the topic of JF-17's role in PLA for a long time and decided that this is a probably a good time to put it in words. However, before we get to this topic, a more pressing issue seems to be the semi-unveiling of Z-10 assault helicopter. At the current time, China is mainly reliant on Z-9G and modified Mi-17s as its assault helo force. There is also an assault version of Z-11, but that seems to be not in PLA's plans due to its small size. What we can clearly see with the recent photo of Z-10 is that it is a tremendous improvement over Z-9G. From the outside, it looks like it will become the stealthiest helicopter in the world once it goes into service (since Comanche is axed already). There are some speculations that its infrared signature is as small as that of Comanche, but this has yet to be verified anywhere. The radar signature definitely looks to be smaller than other stealthy helicopters out there like the Tiger. From this picture, we can't even see the intake of Z-10, but I read that it's suppose to be at the back. We know that it has all the important features of a modern attack helicopter. A MMW radar like Longbow is under development and should be fitted on top of the rotor pretty soon. From a previous picture, Z-10 has 4 pylons. Each of which can carry 4 HJ-10 ATGMs (as seen in this picture) or 4 TY-90 AAMs. The transmission of Z-10 was supposedly co-developed with Eurocopter; and might even be more advanced than that of the Tiger. The rotor system and the engine are from Agusta and P&W Canada respectively. Indigenous replacement for both are currently in development. Z-10 has even flied off with WZ-9 engine last year. However, it appears to me that WZ-9 is still far below the performance level of PT7C series. A PT7C fitted Z-10 would have the highest T/W ratio of any helicopter in the world, but the same cannot be said about WZ-9. Therefore, PLA would have to decide whether it wants to use the cheaper+indigenous engine or the foreign+vastly superior engine. My hope is that WZ-9 is only fitted on enough helicopters to ensure that it will be a viable option if the PT7C choice is ever taken away. As we go forward, it looks like Z-10/Z-9G will form a hi-lo combination like Mi-28N/Mi-24 for the Russians. Z-10 is simply too expensive in the near term to be equipped more than that. Supposedly, a first regiment of 12 Z-10 are now deployed, so I will be waiting for more pictures to come out.

When JF-17 was started, the agreement was that China will buy 250, whereas Pakistan will buy 150. It looks like Pakistan will now place an order of 250 JF-17s due to the improvements that CAC made to the plane. It is expected to be used as the work horse of PAF in mostly A2A roles. Around the world, CAC is expected to market this fighter as a replacement to the F-7 series. Depending on the choice of avionics, weapons and engine, the price tag of JF-17 could be anywhere from $10 to $20 million. In PLAAF, China already has a hi-lo combination in J-10 and J-11. Future variants of J-11 will be used for long distance strike, ground attack, anti-ship missions and long range escort missions. Its range and payload allowed it to be chosen by PLANAF over J-10 for the first generation of PLAN aircraft carrier. J-10 remains the most deadly fighter jet in PLAAF and will be work horse of PLAAF for the next 2 decades. In the past few years, it has handed lopsided defeats to su-27/J-11A/su-30mkk in PLAAF exercises. Even against J-11B (which is equipped with a newer generation of avionics), it can still achieve parity with its much smaller RCS and greater maneuverability. With the modified J-10 coming into service soon, it will be the main air superiority platform until CAC's twin-engined "J-10" and SAC's 5th generation fighter comes online. It would seem like the core of PLAAF's fighter force would not include JF-17. JH-7A will be the main strike platform in both PLAAF and PLANAF until J-11BS comes along. JF-17 is not likely to take over the role of JH-7A or J-11BS in the future. Aside from that, J-7s and J-8s currently occupy the role of cheap aircrafts in PLA. JF-17 is obviously viewed by many as the prime candidate to take over the roles of J-7 in PLAAF. I think the number of JF-17s to be deployed in this role depends on the eventual cost of JF-17 and the number of regiments PLAAF wants to keep. if PLAAF chooses to keep the current number of fighters, JF-17 will obviously get a few hundred orders. If that does not happen (as is most likely the case), JF-17 will have to fight against J-8F for orders. It may surprise many people, but a WP-14 equipped J-8F would have many advantages against JF-17 (e.g: better T/W ratio, higher payload, better supersonic performance, more space for radar+avionics). So, where does JF-17 most likely fit in? The answer seems to be in the role of Q-5 replacement. Now, it has been believed for a long time that L-15 will assume the role of replacing Q-5 as the ground attack aircraft and replacing JJ-7 as the main LIFT for PLAAF. It turns out that Hongdu has been a huge disappointment for PLAAF. L-15 is likely to not get any orders from PLAAF in the near future. A decent order is expected for JL-9, but whether it can fully achieve the requirements of PLAAF is another issue. So, what does that mean? A twin-seated JF-17 will be required by PLAAF to take over the role of L-15. Obviously, a twin-seated JF-17 can be used to train pilots. It will be a tremendous improvement over Q-5 in flight performance, range, payload and avionics. Of course, changes will need to be made by CAC to make it more suited for CAS missions. However, the relatively low cost of an attack variant of JF-17 (it will not need all the fancy avionics of an air superiority version) would make it extremely attractive to PLAAF. This seems to be the current situation for JF-17. I will follow up if I get newer information on it.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Continued cooperation with Russians on helicopters

First, I must say the previous post wasn't as complete as I would like. When I get time, I wish to expand on the platforms I mentionned.

From the recent transactions, it looks like China's military cooperations with the Russians is strongest in the medium to large transport helicopter area. Clearly, despite the superior technical performance of Z-8F, its cost and slow production speed has forced China to continue purchase Mi-17s. Probably the biggest bomb shell that came recently is this poster from the recent Beijing airshow.

I basically says that Mi-17 is now getting built in China. We haven't heard about any Mi-17 purchases for a while, so we thought maybe Mi-17 are no longer getting imported. Now, it looks like the cheapness and ruggedness of Mi-17 has really won over PLA. Huitong mentionned on his site that the version being produced is Mi-17V5, but that contradicts with the poster. It looks more like Mi-171 is produced, because the cooperation is with Ulan Ude rather than Kazan (which is the producer of Mi-17V5/7). This is also agreed upon by Kanwa in the recent article, which calls this the largest cooperation since su-27 co-production agreement. Mi-171 is sold to China under the civilian flag, so this is not affected by the recent Il-76 caused military stalemate between China and Russia. Each Mi-171 only costs 30 million Yuan, so that is extremely cheap. Kanwa also stated that Ulan Ude provided one kit for assembly in May. Chengdu finished assembling it in the same month and will assemble more kits. If China chooses, it can do complete local production in the future. It looks like China has now made the decision to go from assembly to local production.

At the same time, Mi-26 is also getting a lot of face time. Apparently, the current version can do even more lifting than C-130. That is quite amazing for a helicopter. Anyhow, a couple of pictures of Mi-26 at work.

Finally, it looks like China will finally get a heavy lift in the class of Chinook.

This is from ARMS-TASS:
Russian Manufacturers Proposing Chinese Companies Participate in Creation of New Mi-46 Transport Helicopter

The Moscow Mil’ Helicopter Plant is proposing foreign companies, including Chinese, cooperation for the creation and production of the Mi-46 intermediate class heavy transport helicopter, a representative of the Russia company, Viktor Egorov, reported at the Aviation Expo China 2007 international aviation exhibition which is taking place in Beijing.

According to him, it is planned to use the experience of the development and tests of the Mi-38 and Mi-26 in the construction of the new aircraft. The new helicopter is intended for the transport of cargos over 10 – 12 tonnes.

The Moscow plant is cooperating closely with China, where more than 100 vehicles have been delivered over the past 3 years. Recently there was a demonstration in Harbin (the administrative center of the Heilongjiang province) of the largest series produced helicopters in the world, the Mi-26T. Last year, a contract was signed for the leasing transfer to the PRC of this helicopter for 3 years.

Currently, Mi-17 and Z-8F are both at around the 5000 kg payload range. Mi-26C is at around 20 tonne in payload. The old Mi-6 and CH-47 are both around the 10 to 12 tonne mark. So, Mi-46 definitely represents a class that China needs, but do not have right now.

Finally, I think this is just the saddest news.
Shaanxi Aircraft has again delayed the roll-out of its Y-9 medium transport as a result of ongoing design changes, but expects to deliver its first production example to the Chinese military in 2009, says company vice-president Liu Bin.

"We have slowed down the development speed of this aircraft to redesign a lot of new things," said Liu during the 19-22 September Aviation Expo in Beijing. Improved avionics and an "integrated display panel" are among the new technologies being incorporated with the Y-9, he said, adding: "we want to make sure the aircraft is perfect."

Shaanxi originally planned to fly the Y-9 - a stretched development of its Y-8F commercial freighter - in 2006, but late last year extended its development schedule into 2007 due to what it described as "small changes" to the aircraft's design (Flight International, 14-20 November 2006).

Liu said the Y-9's first flight is now set to take place during 2008, and revealed that Beijing has already agreed to order the type for delivery from 2009. He declined to reveal how many of the aircraft will be acquired, however, noting that negotiations are continuing.

To be powered by four Chinese-built Wojiang FWJ-6C engines driving six-bladed JL-4 composite propellers, the tail ramp-equipped Y-9 will be capable of carrying a 20t cargo, including land vehicles and other equipment. The transport can also be configured with 106 troop seats, 72 stretchers or to deploy paratroopers, says Shaanxi.

Even after this time, they still can't get a C-130 class transport developed. "Making aircraft perfect" excuse sounds like something they want to use to not look really bad. Frankly with so many PLAAF project reliant on the Y-8/9 platform, they have no choice but to purchase it. I really hope this large aircraft project goes well, because clearly China's transport aircraft industry needs an "apollo" project like CAC had with J-10. Frankly, even with all of this changes, Y-9 is still not as good as C-130J.
Y-9's range with 15 t payload is 2200 km accordng to Huitong. It looks semi-credible if we look at Y-8 figures from SAC website.
For Y-8F400,
Range at maximum payload of 15t is given as 2150 km. Ferry flight range is 4500 km.
For Y-8F600
Range at maximum payload of 20t is given as 1700 km. Ferry flight range is 4800 km.

So, we could do an estimate on 15t range of Y-8F600 by 2150 x (4800/4500) = 2293 km. If Y-8F600 is more efficient relative to Y-8F400 at higher payload, then maybe that range can be increased to 2400 km.

Y-9 maximum is 5800 km according to its Chinese designers in this flightglobal article. So, if we do our previous calculation, 2150 x (5800/4500) = 2770 km. So, around 2800 km for 15 t, better than 2200 km claimed by Huitong, but still pales to C-130J

Range with 35,000 pounds of Payload: (15.9 t)
C-130E, 1,438 miles (1,250 nautical miles) -> (2314 km)
C-130H, 1,496 miles (1,300 nautical miles) -> (2407 km)
C-130J, 1,841 miles (1,600 nautical miles) -> (2962 km)
C-130J-30, 2,417 miles (2,100 nautical miles) -> (3889 km)

Anyhow, this is very disappointing news from SAC. Clearly at the moment, China lacks the ability to produce efficient large transport and helicopter. Until it can correct that situation, it will have to rely on the Russians and Ukrainians.