To follow up on the SRAAM + Yuan from the last post, we've received some updates since the last post. For the new SRAAM, we received news that the 607 institute (China Air-to-Air Missile Research Academy) has given a second level award to a project that involves the testing validation another project. It talks about lifting China from third to fourth generation, decreasing the gap with leading countries and the IIR requirement reached a world leading position. From all indication, I think this is describing the new SRAAM that is about to enter service soon. We've seen a photo that called this missile PL-10 (looking kind of like ASRAAM and A-darter) that is supposed to be in series production by 2010 at the latest. Although much of it is believable, it seems to contract the previous picture and report that this SRAAM is supposed to look more like Iris-t. Anyhow, I think it's something we will see more of later on this year. I'm also waiting for the new Chinese Meteor.
Yuan production has also seemed to have increased a lot recently. Outside of the original Yuan, we've seen a second Yuan that is supposed to be in the midst of sea tests (although all photos have it docked). You can see from all the MCM ships that it is in Shanghai. Many of the latest picture of the second Yuan can be found here. Someone did a nice comparison of the differences between the lead Yuan boat and the second one. This is a good picture of it:
We've also seen a new variant of 039 in Wuhan + an additional Yuan hull. So, we can say they have at least 3 Yuans and 1 Yuan modified at least reaching the launch status. Aside from this, we've probably seen anywhere from 12 to 16 Songs (314 to 329). So, the 039 series is definitely pulling quite the mileage for PLAN. With all the bad news surrounding the klub missile, I just can't see China ever purchasing any submarine or major surface ship or AShM or torpedoes from the Russians. As PLAN continues to modernize its underwater fleet, it will have to rely on the continuous advancement of its indigenous designs, heavy torpedoes + SLCM.
The other thing that has been bothering me lately is this report that Varyag is getting renamed and is joining PLAN. If anyone has seen the pictures of Varyag lately, it is clearly not ready to join service. What's more important to follow is the naval flanker situation. Contrary to most people's beliefs, China is not going to buy anymore su-33s from the Russians. I find it almost laughable to people are comparing super hornet to the Russian su-33s and saying China has no chance in these encounters. PLAN has different requirements than RuN, so it really makes no sense that they would want su-33s from the Russians for any reason other than studying. It's not entirely clear what the Chinese naval flankers will look like, but a careful study can yield some reasonable deductions. Please note that these are my sentiments at the moment. As we've seen with PLA, new evidences bring changes to one's mindset. So, please do not hold me guilty or something like that if this doesn't turn out to be true.
We've read an official news about a new plane in SAC starting the final assembly starting from late August. At the time, it was speculated to either be J-11BS (the striker plane) or the naval flanker. According to a big shrimp, the naval flanker is in final assembly right now and will be given the designation J-15. Now, it's also believed that this plane is required to be superior to super hornet in almost every area. If it makes the first flight in 2008, take 2 or 3 years to test in CFTE and then 3 to 5 years to practice on a carrier to reach some basic level of operation. The plane will then be ready by about 2015. So, I guess they are looking at building and achieving IOC on the first indigenous carrier by that time. The 5th generation fighter will almost be ready by then, so it makes sense that this plane is given this kind of requirement. I think the reason they chose flankers ahead of J-10 was due to its better multi-role capability and range/payload. I would imagine that it can also service PLANAF as a EW plane and buddy-to-buddy tanker like the super hornet. These are all concepts that have been tried or talked about on JH-7A. By 2015, flankers would have the same status in PLAN as JH-7A does right now, so naval flanker will be the jack of all trade by that time. Despite the cheaper cost + superior flight performance of J-10, it certainly does not have the ability to serve in these roles. This would also reduce the types of aircrafts that would be operated on the indigenous carrier, so it would help with logistics. From what I read with big shrimps on Chinese bbs, we can probably expect a conventionally powered CATOBAR carrier of around Kuznetsov size that carries 30-40 flankers of different variants, 3 Y-7 AEW and a bunch of their future naval helicopters (either Z-15 or the new 10 tonne helicopter)
Also, the naval flankers might not last that long with PLANAF. The 5th generation fighter will most likely have naval variants, so it won't be too long before that fighter will start equipping PLAN instead. I guess you will have the 5th/4th generation mix like USN has with F-35 and super hornets.