Friday, March 25, 2016

Carrier Fleet and Strategic transport

This entry will focus on two of the largest strategic projects that China is currently working on: Carrier fleet and strategic transport (Y-20).

For the former, there has been increasing number of photos from Dalian shipyard showing the first domestic carrier taking form. This carrier, commonly referred as 001A, is expected to be very similar to Type 001 CV-16. Both carriers are conventionally powered STOBAR carrier with an air wing consistent of J-15s, Z-18s and Z-9s. There have been many photos of production J-15s (Number 100 to 114) operating off CV-16 since the start of the year. It seems like the standard weapon load for air defense version of J-15s is 2 MRAAMs + 2 SRAAMs. Ground attack variants could carry 2 YJ-83s + 2 SRAAMs. More importantly, the latest photos show several J-15s on flight deck at the same time with many crew members doing standard carrier operation duties. There are pictures show 5 or 6 J-15s parked with their wings folded, a tug dragging helicopter around, elevator carrying plane to flight deck and multiple J-15s about to take off. We have even seen photos from late afternoon or early evening showing flight deck operation with lights on. While the last part does not conclude they have started doing take off and landing in the evenings, it does indicate that part maybe coming sooner than many people would have guessed a year ago. One of my fellow SDF moderators even commented on how the CV-16 flight decks show more activity than any of the photos from Soviet Union ones. The next step would be more integrated exercises with other ships of a carrier fleet.

For the latter, recent report has come out that the development of Y-20 may complete this year leading to the start of mass production sometimes this year. So far, there have been 5 flying prototypes (No. 781, 783, 785, 788 and 789) along with unknown static prototypes. Even though Y-20 made its first flight in 2013, strategic transport do not need to conduct flight testing for as long as fighter jet projects. At the same time, WS-18 achieved design certification last year, so it should be ready for mass production this year. It’s possible that the earlier Y-20s may still use D-30KP2, but they have bought over 200 D-30s in the past. Even accounting for H-6 usage, the remaining D-30s should allow time for production WS-18s to mature. As I’ve discussed before, Y-20 will not only be used for transport purposes, but also on tankers, AWACs, special mission aircraft and ABL platform. While the requirements of these aircraft types can differ, they also all have common requirements of long range, long endurance, high payload, and good short field performance from conventional and unpaved runways. We know that Y-20 probably will be required to carry something the size of ZTZ-99. That would lead to payload requirement of over 60 tons. We don’t have any performance data outside of that other than the belief that it will similar to comparable transports. We know that the wings and fuselage of Y-20 will have to be optimized to balance performance in takeoff, cargo space, endurance and range based on what PLAAF thinks the future requirements of Y-20 are. That requirement maybe different from what the Soviet Union envisioned for IL-76 or US envisioned for C-17. For example, how would a transport like IL-76 originally developed to carry at most 40 ton in payload be able to carry larger payload efficiently now that its payload has been increased with the new PS-90A engines. That’s one of the major advantages to developing one’s own strategic transport. Compared to IL-76 (and the upgraded IL-476), Y-20 should eventually use more efficient engines (WS-20), more modern flight control system and avionics, more advanced material (vs what was available in 70s) and more efficient wing for China’s missions. With newer construction techniques available that China has learnt from working with Airbus and Boeing, Y-20 could end up with a really modern production line. Once production for Y-20 ramps up, we will be able to see how much fruit this project will reap from the RnD in COMAC projects like C919.

9 comments:

willytan1 said...

It is very likely that the CSIC Dalian shipyard will construct China's first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the Type 003. Construction will start after the type 001a aircraft carrier is completed.

The CSIC 719 Research institute is already in the process of designing nuclear powered ships and floating nuclear power plants.

CSIC is working jointly with China General Nuclear (a large producer of nuclear power reactors and equipment)to produce floating nuclear power plants and nuclear powered ships. CSIC will build the floating nuclear plants while CGN will develop and supply the reactors.

CGN is developing 2 small modular reactors suitable for use in floating nuclear power plants and ships. The ACPR50S reactor produces 200MWt and the ACPR100 produces
450MWt.

The ACPR100 reactor (450MWt) or a modified version will very likely power a future Chinese nuclear aircraft carrier. Technologies developed for the ACPR50S could be used in a next generation reactor for nuclear submarines.
Construction of the reactor will begin this year.
The only real difference between Chinese and American reactors is that the Chinese reactors use Low enriched uranium and the Americans use Highly enriched uranium. The use of HEU allows the reactors to be smaller and not have to be refueled for longer periods of time. It must be noted that the French and Chinese submarine reactors have sucessfully used LEU. It demonstrates that Chinese and French reactors are more efficient in power generation.

In regards to whether Emals or steam catapults will be used will depend to a large extent on the reliability of the Chinese Emals. The Emals developed by General Atomics, in recent testing aboard the first Ford class carrier has shown a unacceptable launch failure rate. The Chinese emals must prove to be superior in order to be accepted by the PLAN.

With the Emals and Steam catapult being constructed at the Naval aviation training centre in Huangdicun, hopefully we will be able to see launches of J-15's using the catapults later this year.

In regard to the Type 001A carrier under construction, there is a possibility that there could be a steam catapult or an allocation for one on the angled flight deck. A steam catapult will greatly increase the combat capability of the carrier.
We will have to see what type of propulsion is installed on the carrier. I believe a steam turbine power plant is likely to be installed on 001A and this will mean a greater likelihood of a steam catapult. A Gas turbine propulsion will mean a steam catapult will not be installed.

Most likely the steam turbine developed for 001A will be used to power the 002 carrier to be built in Shanghai.


willytan1 said...

One more write up Feng. Last one!

The recent revelation about the WS-18 Turbofan indicates that it is not a mere copy of the Russian D30kp2 turbofan, but it is vastly more powerful and fuel efficient Turbofan. This could give us an insight into the size of the H-20 Strategic bomber.

It has been revealed that the WS-18A produces a thrust of 13.2 Tons or 13200 Kgf, compared to the old D30kp2 which produces 12 Tons or 12000 Kgf. This means that the thrust of the WS-18 is approaching that of the NK-32 Turbofan which produces 14 Tons or 14000 Kgf of Dry thrust. The NK-32 powers the Russian TU-160 Blackjack Strategic bomber.

It doesn't stop there. Beijing wants to further improve the WS-18 engine.
In 2015, the AVIC Qingan Group anounced that it would be producing a further upgraded variant of the WS-18. It anounced that it had completed the design of the upgraded engine and approval was gained in July. A further upgraded
WS-18B would easily produce thrust of 14 - 15 Tons and also possibly have a afterburning section installed to allow for supersonic flight. Such a upgrade
would make the WS-18B comparable in performance to the NK-32 turbofan and even to the improved NK-32 envisaged for the PAK-DA Strategic bomber.

This begs the question.......why is Beijing pouring so much money into upgrading a very large low bypass turbofan? It is not for the Y-20 as it will use the WS-20 high bypass turbofan.

The answer is that Beijing intends to use the WS-18B to power the H-20 Strategic bomber. My conclusion is that Beijing intends to develop a Strategic bomber that is in the same size and weight class as that of the PAK-DA. This would mean that the
H-20 bomber will be much larger than the B-2 bomber and will be able to carry more ordinance. Beijing was once invited to jointly develop a Strategic bomber with Tupelov and would know much more about the Russian bomber.

Beijing may intend to use the afterburning version of the WS-18B to power the H-18 Regional strategic bomber. Two afterburning WS-18B turbofans would give the H-18 a top speed of at least Mach 1.8. A stealth bomber in the size class of the TU-22M would be a perfect replacement for the old H-6 bombers.

We should all keep an eye on the WS-18 turbofan.

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John Lee said...

It seems the Y-20 is inducted.

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