Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thoughts from Zhuhai Air Show

As we get to another year’s thanksgiving holiday, there are many interesting things in Chinese military development to be thankful for. The one thing that I look at from this month is the Zhuhai Air Show. Every two years, we get to see the best that China has to offer in the export market for civilian aircraft, fighter jet, UAVs, missiles, air defence weapons and engines. In the 2010 air show, we saw an expansion of UAVs. In the 2008 air show, we saw a whole new display of PGMs and ground attack weapons. In this year’s air show, I think the helicopters (especially Z-10 and Z-19) stole the show.

Prior to the air show, we had just found out about the existence of a second Z-10 and a second Z-19 regiment. It appears both helicopters had achieved operational clearance with PLA aviation. We saw a whole host of up close pictures of Z-10 and Z-19 (including cockpit of pilots with HMDS) from the air show. TV news officially reported that both of these helicopters have achieved combat capability.

We saw flight display from both Z-10 and Z-19 throughout this past week. From this and other photos, we now see 2 other regiments with Z-10. At the moment, it seems like each of the 4 brigades that have Z-10 have 12 or less Z-10s. That's the size of a dadui in PLA aviation rather a full regiment (which can be over 30 helos). I wonder if the goal is to have at least one dadui in Z-10 before increasing the number of Z-10s in each of the brigdaes. We might see some mixed regiments with Z-10s and Z-19s. These are just my speculations and other speculations from on line. Regardless, it appears that both Z-10 and WZ-9 turboshaft engine have reached a point of mass production. It would not surprise me if the production rate is already in the 30s per year. As more photos come out, we will get more information on their alignment.

At the same time, we are getting more information on other Chinese helicopter projects. According to deputy GM of AVICopter, Sun Qingmin, Z-15 equipped with WZ-16 engine will start trial flight next year and expected to be certified by 2014. Using a co-developed engine will allow Z-15 to join the army and the navy. The long delayed 10 ton helicopter project appears to be moving forward to. The picture below shows two proposals for this project. The first flight is set to be in 2014 and production to start by 2017. These two proposals look like Chinese versions of black hawk and NH-90. The engine is expected to either be WZ-10 turboshaft or WZ-16 from the Z-15 project.

There is also another conceptual project XQ-01 displayed in the air show as shown below that seems to be a high speed helicopter like Eurocopter X3 or Sikorsky X2.

They also displayed a whole range of air defence weaponry that are quite impressive. Along side models that we already know about like LD-2000 (land version of Type 730), FD-2000 (export version of HQ-9), LY-80 (export version of HQ-16) and FL-3000 (export version of HQ-10), we also saw the following new models:

DK-10 and DK-9C supposedly originates from the AAMs SD-10 and PL-9C. Although in DK-10's case, it seems to be quite different from SD-10. It also seems to be a prime candidate to be quad-packed in PLAN's new VLS with its active seeker, slim size, and engagement range of up to 50 km.

FK-1000 combines the KS-1000 missile with two dual guns and on board fire control system. It seems very similar to Russia's Pantsir-S1 air defence system.
TD-2000B is another Gun/missile air defence system which may already have been displayed previously.
And finally, we have CS/SA-1 type vehicle carrying Type PG-99 dual35 mm gun.

We saw the usual FT and LS series of PGMs along with a new TG series of LGBs. But there were also interesting new missiles from this show:

The one making the biggest noise is the CM-400AKG missile. It is advertised as a standoff missile for JF-17. It can go Mach 5.5 in terminal phase and has maximum range of 240 km.

They also have two different variants of TL-500 missile which looks like SCALP by MBDA.

We saw a couple of more CM series air to ground missile. The CM-506KG missile looks like the NLOS missile.

Finally, there was an anti-radiation version of SD-10 missile appearing as LD-10.

There were also other interesting things on display such as a model of the J-31 project, a full scale dispaly of Wing Loong UAV and a model of CH-4 UAV. All in all, it was a very interesting air show.

There were also a couple of interesting things we saw in PLAN world. J-15 apparently made its first successful landing on Liaoning this past week. We had an overhead shot of 052C and 052D which showed the two destroyers to be the same length. Although, it seems like 052D is about 0.5 to 1 m wider. Either way, 052D is basically the same size as 052C. The new VLS installations on 052D also look to be a lot smaller than the ones on 052C. And finally, the first 056s have gone on sea trials from both HP and HD shipyard.


odessaguy said...

Feng, does dadui mean large team?

Thanks, Howard McCarthy

Feng said...

yes, basically that's what it is.