Saturday, August 25, 2007

Response to recent UPI articles by Andrei Chang

For those who don't know, Andrei Chang is also known as Andrei Pinkov, Yihang Chang or simply PKF in different circles. He is the chief editor of Kanwa Defense. He does follow PLA very closely and have numerous good sources, but is also overly reliant on these sources (mostly Russian ones). Recently, I've noticed that he has started posting on United Press International, so I decided to critique his articles a little bit.

Analysis: China shows off new hardware

Genernally, there is nothing too new here. I won't comment on his political views, but believe that the bigger reason for the unveiling on these new weapon systems is part of the effort to be more transparent for Western countries.

Analysis: Chinese navy starts long march

Again, nothing new here that he hasn't posted before. It's interested he has finally given up on his initial estimates that 094 has 16 launching tubes and 6 warhead per JL-2. As for this next SSBN with 24 launch tubes, I really wouldn't trust anything they post on TV regarding something so strategical at this point. As for his estimates of 2 indigenous carriers, it does seem to agree with most Chinese sources at this point.

Analysis: Sino-Russia military ties
The entire thesis of his article seems to be based on this:
"China has also complained about the quality of Russian weapons. Russian dealers, on the other hand, are upset about blatant Chinese imitations of their products, built from designs supplied in the understanding that the weapons were to be purchased."
Well, there is no question that China has not been pleased with some of the recent weapon systems, since it's requirements are much higher now.

First regarding this IL-76 contract, the Russians are asking for more money despite needing more time to complete this contract? They are claiming that they will loose money if they fulfill this contract. Well, why did you sign the contract in the first place? It's not China's fault that you didn't look over the Tashkent plant. As for their offer of PS-90A, well that should be offered as compensation for the delay in fulfillment rather than increasing the cost of contract. Are the Russians really stunned that China can live without their military export?

As for the quality of imported equipments, it's been a belief for a long time that many of the imported systems simply don't match the specs given by the Russians. For example, AL-31F don't last anywhere close to 1000 hours before needing overhaul.

As for this part:
"However, the contract was suspended after 95 China-made J11A were completed last year. Russia reportedly backed out of the deal due to technical reservations. "
It was China that stopped the contract, because J-11A simply no longer matched the requirements.

"n the mid-1990s China asked the Russian Phazotron Radar Design Bureau to help the PLAAF to upgrade their F8II fighters. For this purpose, China purchased two ZHUK-8II airborne radars from Phazotron. Certainly many technical documents were transferred, as the Chinese had promised to buy at least 100 of the radar devices. But the Chinese never came back. Two years ago the new Chinese F8IIM fighter was released with the new “indigenous multifunction radar.”"
As for this theory about China copying Phazotron radar, the J-8H which was certified in the 90s already had KLJ-1 radar, which reported finished development as early as 1989. The follow up radar 1492 was also developed before J-8F entered service in early 2000s. Whether or not the export fighter uses a clone is another story, but the domestic versions were definitely at works before Phazotron ever supplied us radars. Same with J-10 and its first radar KLJ-3, that one was ready when J-10 started testing in 2002. It was shown in Zhuhai air show in the late 90s. Considering Zhemchug wasn't imported for evaluation until early 2000s, that's definitely after KLJ-3 was already developed. Frankly, Phazotron is just feeling the sour grapes after not getting the export contract they wanted. Considering their much hyped Zhuk-MSE and Zhuk-ME didn't become ready to equip fighters until the last couple of years, their claims of China copying is too premature (especially since the "cloned radar" entered service earlier).

As for this claim "Along with the Type 956E/EM missile destroyer, the Chinese navy received subsystems from Russia including the Fregat M2EM 3D radar and MR-90 tracking radar and sonar. The same radar system has been seen on China’s domestic Type 054A missile frigate (FFG)."
For the "Fregat clone" Sea Eagle search radar, what the Russians and Andrei do not seem to realize is that this series has been in service since the 90s with DDG 167. Although the earlier version is a single faced radar, one can clearly see the similarities between that radar and the current Sea Eagle. If you look closely at the rotating arms and radar faces (Sea Eagle has far more rows of antenna), you can see clear difference in both part. Looking at some recent Chinese sales brochure, the latest version of Sea Eagle seems to be operating on H band, compared to E band for top plate and C band for earlier Sea Eagle. In fact, a recent article says that the recent Sea Eagle radar is the culmination of a 10 year project going through the most intensive testing procedure of any Chinese naval radar.

As for MR-90 tracking radar, there are less information on this, but looking similar in the exterior does not mean it works the same way on the inside. The sensors used on 054A has higher requirements than their Russian counterparts. The Russians are simply over flattering themselves to assume that China would copy the systems as they are.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More on cooperation with Pakistan

So, I got some recent articles on China and Pakistan with Kanwa.
First, this is a recent picture of F-22P from Hudong. (Right click + view image to see the cut off part)

And this is the Kanwa article regarding to F-22P.

It basically says that the construction started in October of last year. At the moment, Pakistan isn't planning to purchasing anymore F-22P. The reason that the first F-22P is taking 4 year is because there is a lot of changes from Jiangwei II for this ship. We've already seen AK-630M and AK-176M being installed on F-22P, I'm guessing there will be changes in ECM/ESM from Jiangwei II.
As for future purchases, I think it's pretty clear 054 series is where PN would want to go at the moment. I'm still waiting for the follow ups to the first 4 054As to see what the upgraded 054A and future 054B will look like. It appears that unlike first suspected, each 054/054A uses 4 16 PA6 STC diesel engines from SEMT Pielstick. At least it makes sense that it uses a more power engine than the one Lafayette uses to power a larger ship in 054A.

The other news from kanwa is on J-10/Y-8 AEW. It looks like PAF looks at these two as long term investment. At current time, it's focused on JF-17 and Erieye. Although funding could reduce the number of Erieye to even less than 7. For Y-8 AEW, PAF hopes to eventually use lessons here to develop it's own AEW platform. Speaking of which, got a recent picture of it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

More on Z-8

It appears that I mmight have ade a mistake with the classification of the naval version of Z-8. Huitong is calling it Z-8K, here is a photo of the SAR version with FLIR and search light.

It was mentionned by Huitong as a naval version of Z-8A, although I'm pretty sure he is wrong about that part. You can distinguish Z-8A and Z-8F from the intake opening. Z-8A has all the intakes in the facing front all in front of the rotor. There is a hump for the openings. Z-8F on the other hand have the openings one facing front and 2 on the sides. Anyhow, I found a nice specification picture of Z-8F. Note, it lists the basic specs, the specs under maximum takeoff of 13 tonne and the specs using the new PW engine.

according to this, many changes have been made including installing anti-sand components to improve performance in different terrain, using composite blades instead of titanium for better anti-freezing performance. Improved power using the new engine and initial overhaul only needed after 3500 hours. In general, a much improved helicopter compared to original Z-8.

Also, we've seen some new photos of Yuanwang coming out. I suppose that after these ships start doing their sea trial, then the JN shipyard will finally be free to start working on 052D series. Also, we've seen a new medical ship under construction, the model of it looks like this.

And finally, China has finally declassified Yu-6. It hails Yu-6 as a tremendous accomplishment in the face of Western embargo. It apparently entered service in late 2005 (explains why we've started to see so many Yu-6 pictures recently) after 10 years of development. The Chinese article on this can be found on SDF. I know I wrote about it as part of 093 article, but this is another place where China is claiming that Yu-6 has brought the underwater weaponry arsenal of PLAN to amongst the world leaders. So, currently the main torpedoes in use are Yu-3A, Yu-6, Yu-7 and ET-52. Yu-3A seems to be for older subs like 035. Yu-6 is for 039 and 093. Yu-7 is for the surface ships and some helicopters. ET-52 is for Z-9C.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Chinese naval helicopters

In the recent days, we have seen some new pictures of Z-8 with folding tail and rotor blades. You can see one of its pictures here.

The second one shows the size of Type 071 vs Z-8. Many people raised their view of the size of Type 071 after seeing this picture. Now, I'm not one of those people that actually tried to calculate Type 071's length based on Z-8's length from nose to folded area, but one of the guesses is 200 m and displacement to be 20,000 tonne. It certainly would be the largest LPD outside of San Antonio. Also, with the 2 helo hangar, I'm guessing it might be able to hold 3 on helipad + 2 in hangar = 5 altogether. This is definitely a step forward for the aviation capability of 071.

The first one shows the size of Z-8 vs people. To rehash one of my previous post on Z-8F improvements from Z-8A
Z-8F from Z-8A, uses a new engine that raises from 1190 kw to 1448 kw, go from titanium to composite rotor blades, service ceiling becomes 4700 m, in ground effect hover ceiling 2800 m
According to sinodefense, some of the specs of original Z-8
Empty weight: 7,095kg
Normal take-off weight: 9,000kg
Maximum take-off weight: 10,592kg (with standard fuel); 13,000kg (with two aux fuel tanks)
Passenger: 27 equipped commandos or 39 soldiers, or 15 stretchers
Maximum speed: 315km/h
Cruising speed: 266km/h
Economical speed: 255km/h
Service ceiling: 6,000m
Hover ceiling (out of ground effect): 4,400m
Hover ceiling (in ground effect): 5,500m
Range: Ferry range 830km; combat range 500km (with 3,000kg payload)
Flight endurance: 2 hours and 30 minutes (with maximum fuel and two working engines)
(kind of weird the specs listed below is more impressive than that of Z-8F, I think there probably is a mistake, but Z-8F is definitely an improved version from original Z-8A)
Z-8F was originally developed to be a transport I think, but it seems that a naval version has been developed as seen below with the SAR version.

Now that we are passed that, let's take a look at the naval helicopter in PLAN as a whole.
One of the more pressing needs for PLAN at the moment is naval helicopters. Currently, the PLAN helicopters consist of Z-8, Z-9C and Ka-28. Different sources would give different numbers of each helicopter in service with PLAN. For example, ka-28 number is listed as 10 on Janes fighter ship in 2004-5, as 10 on sinodefense and 24 on this
signal mag article
. I personally think 24 is closer to truth because I saw the photos of several ka-28 that weren't listed in sinodefence's inventory list. The number of Z-9C is mentionned as 36 in that signal article, 25 on Janes and I think 30 on 2005-6 version. The number of naval Z-8 is listed as 20 on Janes and 10-12 on sinodefence. I personally like the Jane number, because 13 were acquired in the 70s and another 17 were produced by 1997 (yeah, they only produced 17 in over 10 years).

In their current roles, Z-9C seem to be equipping most of the frigates and older destroyers. Even on 054A, we have often seen models of Z-9C on the helipad. Z-9C is a light helicopter, and as such, cannot carry as much equipment and weapon needed for the ASW role. I'm not even sure at this point how many Z-9C actually carry a dipping sonar and/or sonobuoys. It can also only carry one light weight torpedo. Despite its limitations, it seems to be the most readily available and cheapest helicopter of the 3. Harbin Aviation was mentionned to have produced 7 Z-9s in 1 month a while back, so clearly production is not an issue. At this point, Z-9 is pretty much the most successful Chinese helicopter series. Even aside from its presence in PLAN, it is being equipped widely in army aviation and has achieved numerous export orders. During wartime, it will probably be the only one out of the 3 that PLAN would have no problem replacing.

Ka-28 is widely used with the modern destroyers and has also been seen with 054/A. It maybe the most capable of the 3 naval helicopters at the moment. In terms of its payload, range and endurance, they seem to all be impressive figures and it does not take as much space as a Z-8. It can land on both destroyers and frigates, and seems to be favoured on all of the recent PLAN ships. However, Ka-28 always has the problem of being an imported helicopter.
Finally, Z-8 seemed to have received a new lease in life in the Z-8F version. After Z-8F successfully flied in 2004, it achieved a level of production unseen previously. 9 were produced in 2005, 12 in 2006 and 15 are supposed to be produced this year. While some of the Z-8F are going to the army, there will definitely be a number going to the navy. With a maximum takeoff weight of 13 tonnes, it is definitely one that can carry the most load. However, it is very large, so it can only be operated on the ships with large helipad/hangar like 071, 072, replenshiment ships and such. It does serve a good role on amphibious ships, since it can be used to carry troops. With the improved production, it seems one of the past concerns with Z-8 has been removed.

In general, it seems that Z-9C are used for light frigates and older destroyers. Ka-28 are used for the more advanced destroyers/frigates. And finally, Z-8F are operating from amphibious ships and other large ships.

This will most likely be the case until Z-15, the new 10 tonne helo project and the rotorcraft project are completed.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Latest Developments

So, the nuclear submarine situation is getting more and more interesting. Now, we see new pictures of submarines that are claimed to be 093 SSN, but have diving planes on the sail (unlike the video from the museum). We have also seen pictures of the so called 091G coming out. I'm not sure what this says, other than that there might be more attack subs in service with PLAN than we realize. And also, it seems that we might have multiple variants of 093. The concept of successor variants of a project is certainly not new with PLAN. Some of the photos of the different submarines can be seen here.

Also, with the 80th anniversary, we have seen plenty of new pictures coming out. Here are the 4 052B/C ships taken at the recent time.

There are also some pictures of Yuan and 054A coming out. 529 has just returned from the sea trial