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.
Range at maximum payload of 15t is given as 2150 km. Ferry flight range is 4500 km.
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.