Saturday, June 7, 2008

Replying to a recent Signal Magazine article

So, I just read an
article on AFCEA
regarding China copying technologies from 956. So, I think I will address this again.

First, let's address the myth that Russia is no longer willing to sell China advanced weapons, because China is copying off them. James tried to make the point that the Russians are willing to sell products to India that are not available to China. One of his main arguments are the Akulas. The argument doesn't work in too many ways. Nuclear submarines are not allowed to be exported, so the Indians are only leasing the submarines. Since China already has the capability of designing and building its own nuclear submarines, it makes no sense for the country to lease the submarine for 10 years, pay a fortune and then have to return the submarine. It makes a lot more sense to use that money to continue indigenous development while getting help from outsiders. That's exactly what China has been doing. With the speed at which 093 and 094 are joining PLAN, it's clear that China is going down that path. With 095 getting launched in a couple of years, why would China be interested in Akulas? And previous entries have already cut into the notion that China is not getting the military hardware that it wants from the Russians, so I absolutely disagree with this statement.
The Soviet/Russian exporting of modern offensive systems to nations other than China has been obvious over several decades.

Secondly, the entire idea of China copying off the Russians has been overstated. James begin with this quote.
The answer to the question of why China produced only one or two of four recent new guided missile destroyer designs could be that China is trying to gain the capability of producing a 956-type ship so that no more expensive Russian imports would be needed.

I guess 052B could be considered a Chinese version of Sov in someways, but China still has not tried to gain the capability of producing a 956 type ship. The reason why they are only producing 2 of each class is because they are trying to reach the most advanced shipbuilding level in the world. An old design like Sov, that is overrated in every aspect, certainly does not fill that criteria. Anyone who follows PLAN should realize that 052C is a far newer design with a more stealthy hull, CODOG propulsion, a modern AEGIS like air defense system, long range SAMs and a more flexible missile launcher. In fact, the next generation of Chinese DDGs will likely feature more compact systems carrying more missiles in the same load.

Now, let's move to the part where he claims China is copying all the subsystems off Sov. The first mistake he makes is assuming that anything that have similar exterior are illegal copies. What people seem to always forget is the Sea Eagle radar on 051B. When we first got up-close photos of Sea Eagle on 054A, we noticed that it had different rotating base from Top Plate and had more rows of antenna. Later on, we saw an export poster that showed different versions of Volume search radar. From that poster, it appeared that Sea Eagle on 054A operates on a different band than Top Plate. We also know from past articles that the latest Sea Eagle radar went through the most intensive testing program in PLAN history. Would a cloned radar really need such extensive testing? And with the most recent Sea Eagle being tested on 891, it's clear that radar is different from Top Plate just by looking at the external appearance. The bandstand looking radar on 054A have also appeared on 052B/C and 051C. Coincidentally, they have also appeared on 891. We know that bandstand is used to support Sunburn on a Russian combat system. Whereas the Sea Soul radar is used to support YJ-83/62 on the Chinese ships. If they are copying something like this, would it be able to work with another combat system and different set of missiles like this? This is also something that they have tested extensively on 891 back when it was still 970. Would they really need to do extensive testing for a cloned system. The FCRs on 054A have also sparked suspicions of cloning from MR-90s. We don't know what's inside the cover, but we know the external cover looks similar and that having some sort of FCRs on 054A makes sense. They are suspected to be copied due to their external appearance. I certainly think that cloning is a possible scenario for the FCRs, but there is no proof for this. In fact, he even admitted that the MR-90 like FCR tested on 891 is a domestic version. And we've seen more MR-90s on 891 recently being tested with the newest radars. Why would a year long testing period be needed, if it's already a mature product like MR-90. And if they can develop their own radars, why would they have such a hard time developing FCRs that look like MR-90s. And finally, the claim that 054A uses MGK-335 is also very confounding for me. All we know about 054A is that it has hull mounted sonar with bow mounted dome. There is no evidence right now (other than guesses) that 054A has any kind of towed sonar array. How would anyone outside of China know the origins of the sonar in that dome if it's not imported from anywhere. As we've seen with the sonar suites on the latest Chinese submarines, PLAN certainly doesn't fancy Russian sonar over its own indigenous developments. There is no evidence at all that 054A's ASW suite got any Russian help.

And James also conveniently forgets to mention that China received ToT/production rights for AK-176 and AK-630. They also modified these gun systems for domestic use. If they are willing to pay for the guns, why would they not be willing to pay them for the radars? Another point he brought up also counters to his own external shape argument. The VLS cells on 054A look lie MK-41 on Aegis ships and also use hot launch. Does anyone really think that China would have access to MK-41? In spite of this, we still hear claims that HH-16 is a copy of Shtil VLU. Clearly, China is willing to create radar, weapons and launch modules that have similar exterior appearance to existing systems around the world. Due to its familiarity with Russian systems, it certainly makes sense that many such systems look similar to Russian ones. China has certainly shown a willingness to get ToT and license production for things like the diesel engines, gas turbines, guns, torpedoes and sonars. Why then would everything else they develop be copyright infringement suspects? They certainly are used to studying existing systems and developing domestic versions based on lessons learnt from those systems. Would those be classified as illegal copies though?

And even examining some of its accusations toward the Western subsystems is kind of interesting. We've already went through the HH-16 VLS. We've also noted that the diesel engines and gas turbine are all legally produced under ToT in China. Otherwise, I don't see why MTU and SEMT would bother doing business with China anymore. The SS-12 sonar and Z-9 definitely got full ToT and licensed production rights from the French. That's also why China still cooperates with Eurocopter and gets help from the French on sonar. The A244S torpedoes were certainly purchased legally from the Italians and that probably aided in the Yu-7 development. We've already discussed in previous post that Type 730 is a combination of ideas from multiple CIWS. To say that it is a copy of Goalkeeper would be ignoring the sensor difference, munition difference and the physical difference of the two naval gun systems. I guess the most blatant violation toward Western countries is the development of the HQ-7/FCR/Type 360 radar combination. Outside of that, I would say China has respected the subsystems that it bought from the Western countries.

At this point, it seems like any new Chinese platform that has physical resemblance to Russian ones will be called stolen copies by the Russians. The Yuan submarine, 054A radar suite, WS-10A, J-11B and a bunch of other systems all got such labels. There is no question that China gained a lot from the Soviet breakup. It got access and ToT to technologies it never had before. It simply could not have gotten the same ToT deals from Western companies, who are probably much better at protecting their own IP. So, China's military complex benefited greatly from cooperation with the Russians. However, that doesn't mean it should have to keep on buying Russian products why they are not making the cut. No amount of Russian complaining will change that. Since I don't see this complaining stopping, this will likely be a major topic on future posts for this blog.


Jammer said...

Isn't this more about wishful thinking? Because if it's not this then it means China has a robust domestic arms capability. Also, do you notice that Western military writers much like Western journalism plays follow the leader when it comes to news. Ever since Pinkov wrote his piece claiming everything China was stolen from the Russians, it seems more articles saying the exact same thing soon followed.

Unknown said...

It makes me think that Western "experts" are either lying to themselves by telling themselves (and everyone else) China cant come up with its own goods and cant build a self-sufficient defence industry...even tho if they just scratch the surface a little harder theyll find evidence to the contrary.

And of course, spewing all this illegal copying stuff makes China look bad...a bonus point for them i guess.

dlhh said...

The only way to counter this blatant lies is for the PLA to be more transparent.

As with the Sichuan earthquake, CCTV has shown an incredible sophiscation when allowed to report openly. They even got praise from the Western media for their sophiscation.

In actual fact, whenever I answer an online publication to counter sensational lies, they always answer my email to try to convince me. Whether I believe them is another matter.

Compare that horrible lie that is going around major online publications about the PRC Govt knowing in advance that they knew that the earthquake is about to happen and not doing anything about it.

Guess what, no reply at all from the PRC Govt. Lies become truth when you don't counter them.

Is it any wonder that the majority of westerners are brainwashed to believe that the PRC Govt is evil?

Feng said...

well, another PKF article just came out and it's still bustling my tails. Anyway, I expect more stuff like this coming out in the coming years. The gist is that you can find a lot of information just by doing research into Chinese sources, which nobody is willing to do. So, we end up with everyone just taking the Russians words. Which is not exactly the best thing to do.

Jiang said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jiang said...

Feng, I just checked out the Sovernney Class Destoryer we Bought from Russia. Man, IT IS A FU#KING RIP off. Each one cost 750 million $$$, how could a 1970's russian junk ship cost so much?? Do you also know that Taiwan bought 4 Kidd class for just 750 million$. Feng, I know that we will never buy any more Navy Products from russia anymore, but MAN, can you explain why we bought the JUNK Sovs in the first place????

Jiang said...

Feng, even the newest Korean Agies DDG the King Sejong the great Class only cost 923million $ per ship, and it is the largest and one of the most advanced Agies ever build, it is FARRRRRRRRRRR MORE advanced than the JUNK Sovs class. I just can not understand why the FU#K our Navy bought it the first place.

Jiang said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Feng said...

alright, I had to delete a couple of posts there. Jiang, if you have to put # in a word to not get it filtered, then you probably shouldn't be using it.

They paid $700 million each for the last 2 Sovs and 500 million each for the first 2. And I'm pretty sure 052B/C are cheaper than the Sovs. But you have to understand they were sort of desperate for destroyers at the time of purchase. It's not known for sure, but people suspect purchasing the Sovs allowed them access to Rif for 051C and Shtil for 052B. Whether or not they cloned the radar on Sov is a different story, but they certainly learnt a lot about the air defense architecture and such from Sov. So I think they overpaid, but that's okay. As long as they continue to build their own ships from now on, it will be good. China definitely builds ships a lot more cheaply than the Russians.

Typhoon said...

Its wrong to call all Chinese indigenous production as illegal clones but equally misleading is to comment on the blatant technical leakage as only China's MIC "studying" and "benefiting" from "co-operation".

Chinas habit of "benefiting" from imports has given it an image that does not inspire trust or co-operation when compared with nations like India, who appear to be much more respectful with the technology.

Feng said...

Part of the reason that you pay for ToT is to learn from other's experiences, which will help your own development. You cooperate with others so that you can develop stuff faster. If you are always getting ToT, "respecting the rights" and not developing anything on your own. That just makes your RnD weak and incapable. It speaks more about India's Mil complex than anything else. With accesss to Western cooperation/help and access to latest technology from around the world. It should be able to take that and develop its own stuff.

So, I would say that you have to look at the PLAN as a whole and there are not that many cases where it blatanly copied other countries. Clearly, HQ-7 and the related radars is the most obvious case. But outside of that, it has respected the licenses and also paid for ToT in other cases.

Typhoon said...

There we have the problem, why should any nation or manufacturer deal with China if its going to have to play Roulette over its IP rights being respected?

China needs an image change on this issue, greater transparency as said above and an emphasis on co-operation rather than just a boost to home industry. In the end its China that will lose out should it get cut out of the high-tech side of the industry, you dont see Russia complaining about HAL for example.

Feng said...

It's absolutely legal to learn from your ToT and then use that knowledge to work on future projects. In that case, you are already paying for the technology. So, you purchased the technology. And it is also totally legal to create two things that look similar from outside but operate completely different from inside. Just as an example, two software programs may have similar look & feel, but there is no IP infringement as long as they are developed differently and have different coding and such.

You see a lot of new Chinese subsystems that look similar to existing products around the world. That doesn't mean they violated any thing. It probably just indicate that they learnt from looking at other people's products what something should look like. But the interior stuff could be totally different. And I'm sure in cases like the radar, the components used would have to be completely different, software/hardware processing have to be completely different and such.

Typhoon said...

Where ToT has occured making use of that technology is fine but its where ToT hasnt thats the issue and my point.
You have already raised cases above where you think this may have occured!

Feng said...

You are grasping straws here. I'm sure if they looked hard enough, they can find some proof of violations, but you can say that about a lot of products out there. Basically, the idea of China illegally copying off people is not simple or clear as some people would like you to believe.

Unknown said...

Chinese simply are at a bad moment in their long history. Back when they invented paper, compass, gunpowder, and printing, there was no such thing as IP rights. Those are some of the most significant products in history...

Typhoon said...

Im not trying to add weight to simple accusations. The point im trying to make is that by glossing over the topic of Chinese copying even when you acknowledge the possibility (indeed likelihood) of such abuses and by placing blame on western or Russian reporting the commentary ends up as biased as the Signal article its (rightly) attacking, just from the other side.

Chinas image on this as im sure you agree is damaging because it ends up getting locked out of the most interesting activities. As you say, a major gripe China has with Russia is the low capability of what's on offer compared with domestic production, because of the ethos China has displayed in the past Russia can no longer risk sharing high technology. Contrast with India who recieve top level material before Russian services, with strong and public displays of co-operation, perhaps shown best by Brahmos.

China is the only one who can change this image and it will only be solved (in my opinion) with greater transparency and a ditching of the "copy cat, go it alone" methods of today. In the end the image and the activity that caused it just doesn't benefit China.

Feng said...

You see, that's what i've been trying hard to educate against. People in general have fallen for this Russian propoganda that the sales are down because China is not respecting IP, so they don't want to sell more advanced stuff. The reality is that they don't have more advanced stuff that China would want. If you read some of my previous pieces, you would see why. Of course, it's bad for Russian export industry, so they are not going to come out and admit it. Like, why would they want to get in a deal like Brahmos.

These things are far from cut and dry as the writer of this article is trying to say. That's why I feel the need to speak out against such issues. These writers don't work hard enough to dig into truth and that's just laziness. There are plenty of information about Chinese industry out there. There is no reason for an amateur like myself to know about what's going on than these professionals.

Typhoon said...

I think you were quite right to attack the signal article, its making some very shaky accusations.

On the export issue, I think Russia has a huge ammount of experiance and technology that would be very benificial to China and that they should work towards closer and with more open co-operation. Brahmos as the raised example and at a casual estimate is the most advanced anti-ship missile on earth and highly relevant to the Chinese security situation. But this is just the tip of the ice-berg.

Feng said...

See, that's not true. Brahmos received this myth as the world's most advanced AShM due to Russian/Indian advertising effort. But I see the point you are trying to make is that the two countries could cooperate on something that China would find hard to do on its own. One area would be next generation aerospace engines, large transport and such. But again, it's not easy to say one way or another.