Wednesday, February 27, 2008

China copies su-27?

There has been several articles recently critiquing J-11B. I thought I'd take the time to debunk some of the theories on them.

The first one comes from a Russian newspaper
A copy of the Su-27 fighter has recently been assembled in China, but the mass production is not yet started, the Vesti newspaper reports. If China manages to launch production of the Russian jet in series they may become a Russian competitor at third-party markets and it will be difficult to prove the violation of copyright.

Since 1992 Russia has sold China 76 Su-27SK fighters and a license for production of another 200 aircrafts that have been produced in Shenyang as J-11 planes with the use of Russian components since 1996.

Richard Fisher, expert of the US Center for Security Policy said in 2003 the fully Chinese J-11 was being elaborated in China that would require ten years. But China finished the work faster. “The progress in jets manufacturing technology let increase the share of China produced components and technologies from 70-75% to more than 90%,”- the Rosoboronexport (Russian arms exporting agency) plenipotentiary in China Andrei Plotnikov reported in the magazine Problems of the Far East. The work over the domestic Tai Hang WS-10 jet similar to the Russian AL-31F was completed by the AVIC I holding in 2006.

Rosoboronexport refuses to comment on the situation. The fact of copying Su-27 was also rejected in the Chinese Embassy in Russia and PRC State Defense Science and Industry Commission, the Vedomosti newspaper reports.

Konstantin Makiyenko from the Russian Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies says that Su-27 and its variant Su-30 are the base of the Russia’s arms export. Last year’s sale of fighter jets and equipment gave about 50% of the Rosoboronexport’s exports revenues. If China manages to launch production of the Russian jet in series it will easily push Russia from third-party markets, and it will be difficult to prove the violation of copyright.

China has been producing licensed and non-licensed copies of the Soviet aircrafts for a long time. The Chinese J-6 and J-7 fighters were designed after MiG-19 and MiG-21, H-6 bomber - after Tu-16 Badger, and Y-5, Y-7 and Y-8 - after An-2 Colt, An-24 Coke and An-12 Cub, respectively

I think the fear here is that China will start to produce its own flankers and somehow overtake the Russians in the arms export market. However, there is no indication at the moment that China is willing to export it or has the production capacity to produce for domestic + export needs. I've read numerous questions about whether or not J-11B would be exported to Pakistan. Frankly, it's not going to happen for the above reasons. As for the violation of copy right, I don't think that will ever be an issue, since I don't think they will be exporting any. However, the Russians will be feeling pain on this situation, because China will no longer be paying it royalty or buying parts from it. As for the comment about China needing 10 years to clone flankers, it shows a slight mis-comprehension of the entire situation. If China needs to wait until 2013 to clone J-11B, then why bother? If needs 10 years to clone a fighter, why not just design a brand new fighter?

Anyhow, the more interesting article came from our friend Andrei Chang/Pinkov.
HONG KONG, China, Based on the design of the Russian Sukhoi Su-27SK fighter, China has come up with its own domestic version, the J-11B multi-function fighter. Three J-11B prototypes have been manufactured since 2006. After their factory flight tests, they have been evaluated by the People's Liberation Army Air Force 1st Fighter Division, based in Anshan in China's northeast Liaoning province.
A Chinese military industry source has confirmed that pre-production of the fighters will begin this year. "We will not need to assemble more Su-27SKs, because it is old technology given from Russia," the source said.

The J-11B has undergone drastic changes from the original Russian design. A source from the Chinese aerospace industry says that except for the Russian-made engines, 90 percent of the major subsystems fitted on the J-11B, including the radar and optical electronic systems, are made by China. The Chinese aviation company AVIC 1 has already completed testing the 1474 serial radar system to be deployed in the J-11B. The fighter's weapons will also integrate indigenous systems.

A Chinese pilot with more than 20 years of flight experience expressed his high opinion of the Su-27 fighter, describing it as "very easy to fly."

However, as the source from the Chinese military industry points out, some of the parts used on the Su-27SK have a very short lifespan, which has led to a high rate of technical accidents. For instance, frequent problems with the fighter's infrared search and track system have restricted its use in the regular training of combat forces.

To investigate this issue, the author paid a special visit to the Ural Optical and Mechanical Complex in Ekaterinburg, Russia. A Russian source revealed that the company had signed two contracts with a Chinese company to supply parts for an updated IRST system, the OLS-31E. Execution of the contract, valued at US$1 million, began in 2007.

Research and development of the China-made IRST system to be fitted on the J-11B fighters is already completed. The physical appearance of this new IRST is very close to the original Russian OLS-31E, making it appear to be an imitation edition of the Russian system with some upgrades. In fact, the overall performance of the J-11B is now on a par with the Russian-edition Su-27SMK.

The J-11B's fire control radar system uses mechanical scanning, integrates more functions and features a modular design. The fighter also features substantial changes in the fire control system and the cockpit so the J-11B will be able to fire China's indigenous PL-12 air-to-air missiles and a whole series of other precision-guided weapons. The cockpit has three large color multifunctional displays and two small color multifunctional displays.

In recent years, China's pace of development in airborne equipment has been very fast. The design of its J-10B cockpit has been quite precocious; the rear cockpit seems to have four multifunctional color displays and two small multifunctional displays.

In addition, the J-11B will be fitted with China's indigenous strapdown inertial navigation system, 3-axix data system, power supply system, emergency power unit, brake system, hydraulic system, fuel system, environment control system and molecular sieve oxygen generation systems.

The fact that China is producing a large proportion of the J-11B parts domestically indicates that its demand for parts imported from Russia will decline dramatically during the second phase of the fighter's production. Also, some of the subsystems and equipment are compatible with those used in the J-10A and J-10B fighters.

It is expected that the J-11B's flight control system will also be manufactured in China. This was the leading reason why Russia could not determine whether China would continue to produce Su-27SK fighters in the next phase. In reality, the joint contract between Russia and China for the Su-27SK/J-11 development has now been virtually abandoned by the Chinese side without any consultation with Russia.

The first thing that jumped out to me is the part about 3 J-11B prototypes manufactured since 2006. Well, the truth is that J-11B was seen testing in CFTE in all of 2006. In fact, there were probably at least that number before 2007. And the second part is that we saw J-11B appearing in the first division air base recently. That + a host of AVIC1 articles tell us that J-11B is now joining service finally. Also, Pinkov often maintain this theory that J-11B uses Russian engine based on the recent 180 engine order. But as I've always maintained, that set of engines are to service the existing fleet of flankers. As we know, AL-31F's service life is really nothing to talk about, so it's logical that they would seek replacements at this time. As far as we know, J-11B is using WS-10A now and will be doing so for the future. We've had a plethora of articles recently talking about the success of the WS-10A project including a ramp up on production (to possibly 100 in 2008), so that's more than enough to cover J-11B + large number of J-10 for this coming year.

The other theory that Pinkov has is that J-11B is on par with su-27SMK and not on the same level as su-35. I have mentionned in past articles on why saying J-11B is inferior to su-35 is a really bad way to look at things. The reality is that something like su-27SMK simply cannot match the requirement of PLAAF, when the much cheaper J-10 is far superior in air combat than it. In terms of radar, avionics, T/W ratio, ability to fire Chinese weapons, su-27SMK simply doesn't match up with J-11B. And with the results coming out regarding J-10 vs MKK, I really don't think having something of the same level as MKK would impress any of the top brass in PLAAF.

Also on su-35, I really hope that nobody in PLAAF is delusional enough to think that it has a chance against F-22. If something like that starts to get inducted in 2012 (and that's a very optimistic estimation), PLAAF will simply be overpaying for another fighter that cannot match up against F-22/35 in a possible confrontation.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Submarine Threat

In the media, we have often heard about the growing submarine threat from China. How much of a threat is this really going to be. I don't profess to know the answer of this question, but I can possibly examine what PLAN's underwater fleet will look like in the next few years.

First, we can start with the imported subs, since their status is relatively transparent. We know that China imported 2 873 and 2 636 submarines in the 90s. I think the first 2 was originally destined for Soviet navy, whereas the second 2 are the improved export versions of kilo. These should all be superior in acoustic level to the previous Soviet exported kilos. The 8 new kilos that were delivered in 2006 are most likely similar to the 2 636 in terms of acoustic, but its combat system and sonar are upgraded. In fact, the major improvement for these boats was supposed to be the much advertised Club missile (or Sizzler as USN calls it). Interesting enough, they had trouble with this missile right from the start. Supposedly, they have to make fixes/upgrades to each batch of Club missile they received. In a way, it is not too surprising this is done, because many people have speculated that China has upgraded the sonar/combat system. We've seen kilo subs spending long periods of time in the docks of major submarine building shipyards like JN. Either way, we have only recently received a report on 1 successful firing of Club missile from 636M. Either way, these 12 kilos will be expected to serve ESF and SSF in the coming years.

Secondly, the 039 series of submarines are China's most recent diesel subs. This is one of the best illustration of Chinese military advances in the past decade. When the original 039 was launched in 1994, it happened to suffer many problems. And acoustically speaking, it probably wasn't really a shining moment in PLAN history. After that, we saw 3 more 039 of a new variant coming out from 2001-2003 with several noticeable changes (including a new sail). And after that, we had 3 years of mass production of a slightly modified variant of 039 with changes like drainage hole alignment, the curvature joining sail to the hull, upgraded sonar and combat systems. By the way, I have to give props to Crobato for summarizing all the differences. These 3 variants are what western observers typically refer to as the Song class. The final variant numbered anything from 8 to 12, so we are probably looking at a total of 12 to 16 Songs. Although, the difference between the pennant of the first Song and the first Yuan would indicate a maximum of 20 units. Kanwa apparently believes that there are 12 Songs, because its contacts with MTU indicated 12 set of engines (MTU 16V-396) exported for Song. In 2004, we saw the launching of the first 039A (aka Yuan) sub. It appeared to be double hulled and larger than Song subs. It featured a kilo like hump and was dubbed the "Chinese kilo" and "Chinese Amur" by different observers. However PLA seemed to look at it as just an upgraded Song. According to several people much more knowledgeable than I, Yuan does not represent a generational leap over Song in acoustic level. This is not too surprising, since PLAN favours more of an incremental improvement approach rather than a generational improvement approach. This new 039A went through probably 2 years of sea tests before joining PLAN. It features a generally more hydrodynamic looking hull, flank array sonar + AIP engines (at least reportedly). We waited for 3 years before firm evidence of new Yuan units being launched in JN and Wuhan. As seen in the recent photos, there are at least 2 units of a new 039A variant (with changes in drainage holes, sail modifications, flank array sonar placements) launched in the past couple of months. We've just recently saw another 039A unit of this improved variant that already seemed to have joined ESF. We've also seen possibly a new major modification of 039 series (possibly 039B?) in Wuhan with a different looking hump, possibly larger hull and possibly other changes (we need more photos!). In my opinion, this new 039B submarine probably will need about 2 years of sea tests before mass production. So, we might see a couple of years 039A mass production (meaning around 3 a year) before 039B is put into mass production. With all the 033s and early 035s retiring, it's hard to see them not mass producing the improved 039A. By 2010, we will probably see the lone 039B + 7 to 9 039As + 12 to 16 039s. (I guess 20 to 25 039s)?

Thirdly, what about 033 and 035s? Most of the Ming class subs are still relatively new hulls (like Jiangwei of submarine) and can do the role of patrol, surveillance, laying mine and distract more powerful subs from the quieter 039 class. From the above estimates, there will be about 35 3rd generation subs in 2010. According to sinodefence, there are currently 17 035s serving in NSF and SSF. I would expect most of them to still be service in 2010, but 033s to be retired. Of course, there may be some other 033s remaining active in a training role. So, PLAN will have a conventional fleet of around 50 submarines in 2010.

Fourthly, what will be the future of Chinese conventional submarines? This is really a complex question, because many people suspect 039 maybe the last series of pure diesel submarines with PLAN. We've heard anything from going strictly nuclear in the future like USN to producing min-nuke subs for hi-lo combination to Magnetohydrodynamics submarines. To be honest, most of these ideas sound pretty crazy to me. I do think China will go for more nuclear submarines in the future as it seeks to project more power, but the long Chinese coastline will always provide the need for the cheaper and defensive diesel submarines. Even so, I'm not sure when we will see the successor series to 039.

Finally, what have we really learnt about the nuclear submarines? If the recent Google Earth pictures told us anything, it would be that there are more 093s/094s out there than all the unclassified Western sources indicated. We've seen pictures of 3 094s docked Huludao and another dao recently. We've also seen evidences for probably at least 5 093s (2 in service, 1 in google earth photo docked, another in dry dock and another about to be transported to dry dock). A source on Chinese bbs said a few months back that there were 5 093s and 3 094s launched at the end of 2005. I would say that it was a shocking revelation at the time, but the Google Earth photos seem to corroborate with that. At the same time, he said there will be 8 093/095s and 5 094s launched by the end of 2010. You may be shocked by the mention of 095 here, but we've seen a company involved in the 095 project accidentally leaked the news that it's suppose to finish development of 095's reactor vessel in the 5 year plan of 2006-10. So, it's not too shocking that the first 095 might be launched by 2010. Of course, it might be another 3 to 4 years before 095 can join service. Now, if we include the 3 serving 091Gs and 2 092s, there will be around 18 nuclear submarines by 2010 (although not all of them will be in service).

The recent years have been a period where much of the old Chinese submarine fleet have been replaced with newer and more capable submarines. The combat system, sonar and torpedo of the new submarines are also a generation ahead of the pre-2000 level. It looks like China will certainly move to more of a nuclear fleet in the future as it seeks more power projection. But at the same time, it also is modernizing in all the other areas and increasing power projection. So, I don't really think the submarine modernization is really much more emphasized than other part of the fleet.

Monday, February 11, 2008

chinese new year pictures

hey guys,

so, there has been a bunch of photos coming out with Chinese new year. Frankly, a lot of them are old pictures from earlier part of this year that were held back, so I will just post a subset of them.
Not much new going on with the shipyards, since this is when Chinese work places normally shut down.
First, some pictures of the second Yuan currently docked at Shanghai.

More pictures with 054A in service at ESF.

And of course, the MCM ships

And of course, the second experiment ship, 892, is finally coming into service

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Modified Yuan emerges

so, the new 039 variant we saw a couple of weeks ago has now finally launched. I got some photos here. It's definitely a clearer view than what we've seen before.

I can't say too much except that it definitely looks wider than Song for sure. With the new hump, its hull looks kind of odd. And the sail also looks wider than previously. Generally, it looks like larger than previous Yuan or Song.

Also of note from this week, we finally got confirmation that Yuan is using an AIP engine of 100 kw in power. It's most likely equipped with 2 such AIP engine. Interestingly, Gotland submarines use 2 V4-275R stirling AIP units (each rated 75 kw). The larger Yuan obviously needs the more powerful AIP units.
The original article from Science & Technology Daily is as follows (if you can read Chinese).


福州红庙岭垃圾填埋场从今年起,每年都将会发一笔“意外”之财。当然,并不真的是天上掉馅饼,而是因为历时 一年有余,其垃圾填埋场封场覆盖及填埋气发电项目终于竣工投产,以后每年可向华东电网输送1200万千瓦时 的电能。
  这个项目的核心———特种发动机技术的承建者,则是有30年特种发动机研究历史的———中国船舶重工集 团七一一研究所的下属单位上海齐耀动力技术有限公司。


  目前,这一发动机已成功应用于我海军新型AIP潜艇上。由于它不依靠空气推进的动力装置,大幅降低了潜 艇噪声,能使潜艇在水下长期航行,增强了潜艇的隐蔽性,进而大大提升了我国海军作战实力。

  此前这种船用发动机技术只有极少数国家掌控,如今完全实现了自主研发,被国内外誉为一颗强劲的“中国心 ”。

  特种发动机的研究,凝注了中国船舶重工集团公司七一一研究所研发人员数十年的心血。1975年,中国舰船研究院第七一一研究所成立特种发动机研究室, 1996年6月,成立特种发动机工程研究中心。经过“八五”、“九五”的研究,相继突破12项关键技术。1 998年,他们研制成功了拥有完全自主知识产权的我国第一台特种发动机原理样机之后,他们又研制成功了工程样机,总体水平达到了国际先进水平,部分技术处于国际领先地位。

  在特种发动机的研究过程中,七一一研究所以此为契机,培养了一大批技术骨干力量。从主持该项目之初,课题组只有10多人,而现在发展到100多人。涌现了上海市劳动模范、上海市青年科技英才等先进人物,也正是这支团队,多次被评为解放军总装备部“预研先进集体”,两次被授予“上海市劳动模范集体”称号 。


It talks about 711 institute developing this new special type of engine. This is already used on China's new AIP submarine. They developed 20 kw and 100 kw variants. They developed a prototype of this engine as early as 1998.