Sunday, September 21, 2008

F-22P Taking shape + my thoughts on PLAN's ASBM program

It's really nice looking at these pictures because the first F-22P (251) is taking shape in front of us. We are seeing FM-90N and 76 mm being fitted on it. Actually, the FCR for the main gun looks exactly like the one for AK-176M, but the turret looks different. The sensors and the 30 mm CIWS are also looking really good now. If we go by previous exhibition posters, the tracking radar is TR-47C(MR-34) and the search radar is the export SR-64. SR-64 really is an interesting dilemma, because it's totally encased in a bulb on all the PLAN ships. It is almost hard to imagine that they are the same radar. We also see a Z-9C model on the helipad, which is consistent with what they do during the construction of other ships. I'm not going to make any guesses on when the sea trial will start.

The other thing I found interesting was Galarhn's post regarding ASBM. Actually, he quoted something by Robert Farley. So, this is something I recently spotted on ASBM from a Chinese military magazine interview with a naval base designer. The original text is as follows:



He was asked if ballistic missile can hit moving target. He said that with improvements in terminal guidance (after solving the technical problem of putting it on a ballistic missile), they currently have the capability to hit moving targets.

Ever since reports of Chinese ASBM came out, there has been a lot of discussions on whether or not this is true and also whether or not SM-3 has the capability of stopping it. This topic really has caused a lot of heated discussions on forums. SM-3 certainly has performed well in tests against the targets that it is designed against from all that I have read. I don't know exactly what the test parameters are, so I won't get into the discussion of which side will win in this kind of encounter. The idea of developing a ballistic missile with the accuracy of hitting a stationary USN aircraft carrier which only has a beam of 41 m is difficult. In that case, you'd basically have to achieve a CEP of 20 m provided that you can find the center of the aircraft carrier. Of course, hitting close to the carrier could also cause a lot of damage. If we use 30 m CEP as the barometer, hitting this kind of stationary target would be difficult, but not unimaginable. Consider that the export P-12 missile was quoted to have a 50 m CEP (and 30 m CEP with GPS guidance), it's not too hard to see a SRBM like DF-15 achieving such a target. We know from a previous Chinese article that DF-5 achieved a CEP of 250 m in the 80s after travelling 9000 km. If we think of all the improvements made in the past 20 years, it's reaonable to think that a MRBM like DF-21 can have a CEP in the 2 digits. I think it's even possible to imagine that DF-21 can achieve the 30 m CEP that's needed. However, is the terminal guidance that they put onto DF-21 good enough to track an aircraft carrier? Consider the speed that it is moving at as it is coming down, it's almost hard to see how it would be able to do so. There is also the other hard part of adjusting the direction to get there. Modern computers have certainly made this process much faster, but is it good enough? I guess we would not know until a test happens.

The other thing is that I don't think DF-21 is the only ASBM they are preparing. DF-15 has also been mentioned, due to it's shorter range and greater accuracy/adjustment. Of course, its range will eliminate the possibility of engaging a carrier (unless USN gets too close). There has also been the talk of JH-7A equipping some kind of a BM like B-611. If we ever see a picture of that coming out, I would be totally convinced that it's designed to engage aircraft carriers. So as things stand, the Chinese sites all claim that ASBM is a done deal. Most Western sources state that they are working on it, but still not there yet. The rest of us will just have to wait to see.

Monday, September 15, 2008

More pictures of the new 054

So, I got some more photos of the ship today. The first couple shows the bridge more clearly. It looks like the platform for the front mast is bigger in this one (at least to my eyes).

And finally a side by side comparison of the current 054 to the 054A from HP.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The new 054 in HP

So, we finally got some more clear photos of the 054 series frigate under construction in HP. You can see the photos below.

If we compare it to 525 and 529, we'd see that the lines leading to the bow on this specific ship actually looks more like 525. Obviously, it's not a 054, because it does not have the platform for HH-7 and seems to be keeping that for HH-16 like on 054A. The bridge looks like 529, except that the windows are much smaller and round (for RCS purpose?). The surfaces seem to be more stealthy than 529. They seem to be setting up the area where Sea Soul radar will go. We still need to see where the front mast is going to be with respect to the little platform on the bridge. So, the question is what is this boat? It's clearly not a 054 nor the first batch of 054A. The theory has generally been 054B or 054A+. Either way, the more important part is what kind of fit this ship will see. That will have to wait. One of the guys that post a lot of photos from HP mentioned that 054C and even D are being planned. So, we will just need to wait a few months and observe all the photos. As you may remember, it took months to confirm the number of VLS cells on 054A and that they are hot launched.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Zhuhai airshow + engines

So, we finally got a slight peak at what will be shown in Zhuhai airshow 2008. If you check Aviation Now, you will find this piece
日前,珠海机场获息,国产重要机型都将亮相本届珠海航展,其中部分有:3架歼-10(J-10)、2架歼-8B、1架轰油6、1架飞豹A。据了解,歼-10其中一架进行飞行表演,另外2架静态展示。轰油6将在此次航展进行空中加油表演。(张宝鑫 张艳)

The list above includes 3 J-10s (one doing flight demonstration and the other 2 are just for display), 2 J-8B, 1 HU-6 and 1 JH-7A. Also, the HU-6 will conduct in-flight refueling with I presume J-10 and J-8B. Of course, we should expect the usual suspects like JF-17, L-15, JL-9, UAVs, ARJ-21, MA-60, but J-10 will be the star of the show.

The other big news coming out in the past day is Guizhou Liyang's announcement of a new engine project. The article is posted below. It basically tells us that WS-13 (aka Taishan) finished the 300 hour long duration test at the end of the last year. And also mentioning the launch of the new engine. At this point, they could either be talking about WS-12 (aka Tianshan) or another turbofan engine in this weight class that is a generation ahead. So, it would be in the class of EJ-200/F414-EDE.

I know that the engine development situation in China is kind of confusing, so I will just look at the major engine makers and what they are working on.

Guizhou Liyang
Currently makes the WP-7 series and WP-13 series for J-7s. Due to the number of J-7, JJ-7s and JL-9s in PLAAF, this is probably the mostly used engine at the current time. It is developing WS-13 for JF-17. The project is obviously getting close to the original design certification. It will soon be able to fly with JF-17. The project that was mentioned here, which may or may not be WS-12.

Shenyang Liming
This one is most well known for its WS-10A (Taihang) and WP-14 (Kunlun) series engines. Since J-8II, J-10 and J-11B are the elite forces in PLAAF, we'd expect Liming to be doing pretty well in the coming years. At the current time WS-10A still has yet to receive production certification, but that should come in the next 2 years. It will then be considered mature. At the same time, Liming is also developing improved versions of Taihang and Kunlun. In the case of improved Taihang, it will be comparable to the improved AL-31FM series engines and be the main power plant of Chinese aircrafts. There are rumours that Liming will develop a more advanced version to compete for PLAAF's 5th generation jets. In the world of gas turbines, Liming has developed QC/D-128, QC/D-70, QC/D-168, QC/D-185 and QC/D-260 based on Taihang and Kunlun. So, it has also managed to corner the PLAN market.

Xi'an aircraft engine maker
At the current time, XAE is most well known for its WP-8 and WS-9 engines. Both are in full production mode (WS-9 just passed production certification this year) for aircraft built by XAC. Although, H-6K is using D-30KP2, so WP-8 is probably only used for replacements now. With the success of JH-7 series aircraft, WS-9 will still be in hot demand. More importantly, the WS-15 is well under way in XAE. This will be the future of Chinese aircraft engines. It is the only well known 5th generation aircraft engine project for China until this recent Liyang news.

608 Institute
This institute develops the remaining major item engines. It currently builds WS-11 series engine for K-8 and have received the ToT for licensed production of the AI-222-25K. It is also developing WZ-9 for the Z=10 helicopter and WZ-10 for future Chinese helicopters like the 10 tonne helo (or maybe even future Z=10 and Z-15). There are also some mysterious pieces on 608 in the past. This quote below discloses that they developed a turbojet that has already been tested with a plane. It's still unclear what this plane is, although people suspect it's a CAS aircraft replacing Q-5. It talks about developing a motor for UAV and starting certification flight for WZ-9. Looks like 608 has the future PLA helicopter and trainer/attacker market cornered.



Finally, there are the WS-150 (or maybe WS-200), WS-500 and WS-850. These are the engines being developed for cruise missiles and small UAVs. I really wasn't able to find which specific factory designs and produces them.

So, that's a rundown on the Chinese engine makers for everyone.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Updates on PLA

So, I haven't had the time to post here recently, but hurricane Hanna is keeping me indoor today, so I will catch up on some of the things we missed. Obviously, the Olympics stopped, so we've finally been getting some news and pictures from China.
So, the first order of business is WS-10A. We've seen a new article on it out recently.

It just talks about good reviews toward the usage of the WS-10A. The users are rapidly reporting problems to the relevant teams and getting them addressed. This continual process will allow WS-10A to quickly become a reliable engine for everyone. I think this just indicates that they seemed to have adopted a more modern process in the maturation of an engine. As they become more technologically advanced, their methodology of testing and using engines is also getting better.

We've also seen a bunch of new pictures coming out. We got updated photos of what I think is the 3rd 054A being built in HD shipyard. It's kind of interesting that we've seen this ship while getting nothing from HP. There was a ship in there that we suspected to be 054A, but now looks to be something else. So, here are the photos of the 3rd 054A.

It will be interesting to see over the next few months if there will be any difference between this ship and the previous 4. It's been speculated that the new batch of 054A will be improved upon the first 4. I guess we will see.

The other interesting part is that the construction of surface combatants have not gone as expected this year. We've only seen this one 054A under construction and have not seen any movement toward 052D from JN shipyard. I guess a lot of ships will have to wait until 2009 before starting. However, we've seen a dramatic increase in the number of submarines showing up. Below is the 4th Yuan submarine that we've seen. Now, we can't see it well enough to see if this is the one that was shown to have a different hump than the previous 039A. So, I'm waiting for more photos of this submarine that contains more than just the sail.

And finally, we are finally seeing more pictures of 093 coming out.

So, I've read that several posters have tried to call the submarines in second/third photo 091G. But clearly, the sail is not sloped down as we saw on 403 photo from recent times. Yes, there does appear to be some difference in the limber holes between the 2 submarines in the photo (third photo is more clear on this). I suspect that the submarine further off with the interrupted limber holes is the newer version. It is either a newer 093 or possibly upgraded from an earlier model (403 was changed in that way.) With so many picture coming out, one can only suspect that the 095 project is going well.

And finally, some more photographs we've seen coming out recently of different parts of PLAN.


Medical ship + helicopter to be used on it

It's interesting how the helicopter model and the radar model name is different.

Other tidbits:
  • China is starting negotiation on IL-76/78 deal again
  • Pakistan has announced the purchase of 4 AWACS from China + negotiating on J-10s
  • China has submitted its military expenditure in 2007 to UN
  • China has started to recruit the first 50 pilots for naval aviation (ship-borne aircraft)