Thursday, November 27, 2008

J-10 from Zhuhai airshow

J-10 was clearly the star of the recent Zhuhai airshow. There were many UAVs, but J-10 attracted all of the attention. You can see many of its flight performances on youtube by searching "j-10 zhuhai air show". You will be able to find clips like this, this and this. We saw J-10 doing steep climbs, sharp turns and refueling with HU-6. It certainly prompted some new reactions to the plane. One of the more famous ones were posted by Stephen Trimble. The comment by a Moscow-based aerospace journalist is as follows.
I watched how the J-10 flew over Zhuhai, in 30 degree Celsius temperatures and high humidity.

The pilot did none of the show tricks like post-stall or tail slide or pitch-back, but turns were very tight, initial rate of turn very high. It was clear there is a lot of potential in this airplane to achieve the same maneuvers more quickly.

The pilot rarely used afterburner and the degrees of canard deflection were small. Still, the airplane flew very well. I reckon it will beat F-16C or MiG-29/SMT easily.

Now, I certainly feel vindicated that a Russian is actually really praising J-10 over Russian fighters. I'm still waiting for more article to come out on J-10 at the moment. I haven't seen anything by Richard Fisher or PKF on this.

The other revealing part about J-10 came out of an interview with Lei Qiang, one of the first J-10 test pilots. He certainly brought a lot of heated exchanges on Chinese bbs by saying that J-10 can do Cobra better than su-27. He also gave an interview with a magazine where he talked about his experiences with J-10. He talked about where J-10 was stronger and weaker. However, one of the more interesting thing that came out was a commentary online regarding Lei Qiang. The writer just talked about how the upper level in PLAAF didn't know how well J-10 would fare against su-27. So they asked Lei Qiang for his assessment. Unlike a more conservative/shy pilot would do, LQ clearly listed the areas that J-10 are better and the areas that su-27 are better. He ended it by saying that he definitely thinks J-10 can dominate su-27. So, they actually took su-27s flied by top pilots from one of the elite units and put it again J-10s flown by test pilots. And J-10 won handily. That is how J-10 project got supported. This man has also flown F-16 and Mirage III in Pakistan. He has also traveled to other country to see the tactics of other country's pilots. Basically, he has had some experience with modern Western fighters and tactics. His comments to PLAAF bosses and then the subsequent performance of J-10 vs su-27 probably ensured the success of the program.

And after the air show, we also heard PAF officials reiterating its desire to purchase about 2 squadrons of J-10. It's hard to say what is the next revelation of this plane. I suppose we will see J-10B's pictures coming out soon. We should also see WS-10A equipped J-10 pictures, although it's not that easy to differentiate that from AL-31FN equipped ones. I will also be waiting eagerly for next generation AAMs and PGMs (some of which were displayed in Zhuhai) equipped on J-10.

Let's take a look at all the PGMs showcased in the airshow and there are a lot of them. A couple of them first appeared in 2006 airshow, but more variants were showcased (from the same series, but just in different weight class). First, the FT series of SGBs. There is even a gliding version in FT-2.

In addition, you can see a video of FT-2/5 in a promotional video here.

Next part are the LGBs and SGBs produced by the maker of LS-6 and LT-2. We see a new 250 kg version of LS-6 + LT-3 that has TV and Laser guidance.

And finally, this is a promotion for LT-2, it shows that LT-2's CEP is 3 m.

And finally, there is another LGB called ZQX-200 produced another manufacturer. It shows that there really is many competitors right now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A new submarine tender

So according to the person posting this photo, this is the new submarine tender ship under construction by Guangzhou Shipyard International Co Ltd. Here are some of the photos of the new submarine tender.

Now, it's kind of interesting that this ship also has the thing in the back (I don't know what you would call it) that is used to lower the LR7 rescue submarine that they are buying from the British. It's also interesting to note that this would be the first submarine tender that PLAN has ordered since Type 648. Considering all the new submarines that are coming out, it's about time that they build a new submarine tender that would make use of LR7. Some people are calling this the 9500 tonne type 926 class.

We also have some new photos of 866 in action.

And finally, CCTV has a clip of different services. The first part is the navy and shows 168 in action. It's actually kind of interesting to watch the different systems (especially the Type 730) in action. You can find the clips here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Recent news from PLAN land

I was going to get to Zhuhai airshow, but I wanted to wait for some analysis to come out on it first. J-10 certainly made a huge splash, but let's look at what's going on with PLAN and also the new naval weapons shown in Zhuhai airshow.

First, we head to HD shipyard, where the second F-22P is under construction. You can see its photos below.

Second, we saw more photos of the 3rd 054A from HP shipyard taking shape. The front mast has now been installed and it looks just like other 054A in that aspect.

Next, we get some pictures of the two largest medical ships serving for PLAN. So contrary to my opinion, 866 actually got sent to the ESF. We also see 865, which was converted from German built 1300TEU container ship "QIU HE". We can see their photos below.

As promised, let's take a look at all the Anti-ship missiles that they displayed from this airshow and I'm skipping C-602 and C-802A here, since they are so common.

And of course, the missile that we thought was HQ-16, but actually turned out to be a long range guided rocket system.

You can even see a video of it in action here.
From the information I read, it seems to have the necessary range for the Taiwan scenario. It's another in the long line of long range rocket that China has developed.

One of the big stars of this airshow is the FL-3000N, which looks like a Chinese version of SeaRAM. You get a good look at the system + the missile + an article on this if you can read Chinese.

The article basically says that it fits 24 missiles (also has 12, 8 and 4 missile launchers?), the combat station can handle 2 FL-3000N launchers (one in the front and one in the back). It can defend against subsonic and supersonic AShM. It has two guidance modes: passive radio frequency/infrared homing, infrared only. The missiles locks-on-after-launch, it's fire and forget and engages multiple targets.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Interesting things to consider

I know I'm due to post something on the Zhuhai airshow and I will get to that this weekend along with some new 054A photos and other photos. But I read an interesting article by Pat Buchanan today and I thought I'd comment on it. For those who don't know, Pat Buchanan is a prominent conservative (the old-time fiscal conservative rather than social conservative of today). You can find the article here.

Basically, he raises some interesting points about the rise of China and fall of USA. If we really think about it, the biggest gap separating USA and China is the manufacturing capability and the technology gap. Even after years of improvement, US still leads China by decades in certain areas. I think what he stressed there that's important is that China has really been moving up the value chain in manufacturing. At the same time, US manufacturing industry has been on a steady decline and the service industry is by far the largest one now. When we shift the focus to the military side, it's clear that civilian technology/manufacturing trends are also present there. We see a vibrant shipbuilding industry in China, compared to a non-existent shipbuilding industry in America. So even though there is a technological gap between the latest PLAN and USN ships, the production is a different story. China is building many new naval ships on time and on budget, whereas USN is plagued with cost overruns. It all comes down to the fact that China has the manufacturing capacity here, whereas US does not.

Automaking is an industry that is the foundation of manufacturing. US became the manufacturing center of the world due to its car making prowess. The entire concept of assembly line and mass production was started by Ford. Make no mistake, even with the big 3 in trouble, US will still be the largest card producer in the world due to the fact that all foreign automakers are building their cars in America now. At the same time, you see that China is still having trouble breaking into European/North American market due to the safety and emission requirements in these markets. However, you are finally seeing different private and public automakers in China really expanding their operations and mass producing cars. So, there is a technological gap, but the manufacturing gap is almost irrelevant here. Both countries have the manufacturing capability to produce the trucks, vehicles and tanks needed for combat operation.

If we shift our focus to aerospace, it's a totally different story. In this area, US has a huge technological edge in material science, engine technology, stealth, aerodynamics and sensor. However, US has retained its manufacturing capability here, whereas China has a very low-end aerospace industry. As a result, we see that China has to rely on Russia for engines until WS-10A can be ramped up. We see that China has to cooperate with the Russians and Europeans on advanced helicopter designs. We also see that China has to cooperate with Ukrainians and copy IL-76 in order to get its own military transport. Even after it successfully develops an aircraft, it cannot produce them at the same rate as Boeing or Airbus or Sukhoi. Just look at how much trouble SAC is having in just produce 10+ J-11Bs. At the same time, we see that it simply does not have the work force, technology and expertise to mass produce larger aircraft like Y-8, MA-60 or ARJ-21. I don't really call producing 30 ARJ-21s a year mass production. However, you see that China is really attempting to catch up in this area the same way it has in shipbuilding and automaking. It is getting an assembly plant for Airbus 320 in Tianjin on top of the assembly plant for ERJ-45 and also trying to develop its own airliner. At the same time, it has ready become a major supplier for both Airbus and Boeing. And in the recent Zhuhai airshow, we heard news that China is buying a Western aviation firm.

It's been a general Chinese practice to start by producing the simpler parts and then slowly move up the value chain while advancing technologically. Eventually, it will be able to first copy and then eventually design its own machinery. It has already happened in shipbuilding and automaking. I think it will also get there in a decade in aerospace. There really isn't much Western companies can do here. China has managed to capitalize on the competition between advanced Western companies for the Chinese market by getting them to transfer technology in certain cases, do joint venture in other cases and source parts in other cases. Unless everyone refuses to sell to China, a nation that is devoting this much resources to advance technologically will succeed. And you can also see this happening in other major industries like nuclear power plant, renewable energy and space technology (to a less degree). And I think the best point that Pat made is this one.
With her immense trade surpluses, China's reserves have surged from $200 billion in 2002 to $2 trillion. Awash in dollars, Beijing now waits patiently, writes McMillion, to cherry-pick the crown jewels of America's industrial empire—"patents, talents, natural resources, brands"—at fire-sale prices in the global crash.

It's scary that he is mentioning this, because that's exactly what I read China is trying to do in the recent years. It has already bought out Western companies in automaking, CNC machinery for their technology rather than their business value. It's a luxury that most Western countries don't have. With a huge account deficit in most G-7 countries, they really don't have the money or the public support to rescue every company that has advanced civilian technology. Remember, China is trying to improve its overall technological and manufacturing prowess. Military industry will only be helped by advancement in civilian areas as clearly shown in shipbuilding.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Congradulations to Barack Obama

I will try to keep this a rare thing. I normally don't post my political views on my blog, but I thought this is simply too big to ignore. Those who know me personally know that I've been an Obama supporter for a long time. In fact, I've been a supporter since 2006 when he announced his candidacy. Personally speaking, I don't agree with a lot of his policies, but I've always supported him. I believe that the leader of America should be a truly unique person with strong leadership qualities. The policies are formulated by the advisers and other members of the party. I will never find a candidate whose policies I agree 100% with. However, true leaders have something different. They have the ability to inspire the nation to do greater things. They have the ability to get the young people to believe in themselves and believe in the nation. They have the ability to give vision to the people, so that they can have hope and optimism. It's like in sports. The best leaders may not happen to be the best player/athlete, but their leadership inspires team mates to be better than they could ever be alone. That's what I always saw in Obama. He inspires a lot of people (including myself) to work hard for the greater good of the world. He gives me hope that this present quagmire will be over. Somtimes, having confidence in life is the only placibo we need to achieve greater things. Maybe all this inspiration and enthusiasm will not succeed (and it is hard to with the current economic situation), but he can't be any worse than George Bush. We will have at least a president that is respected by the rest of the world, an intelligent man at the helm and change the way the world thinks about America. Just by the virtual of having a black man elected, it tells the world that America is not just ruled by a bunch of old white man. But that it really is a land where anyone can do anything. That alone would change and has changed the way that the rest of the world thinks about America. This really is something no other candidate can do.

And when he was making his acceptance speech, I felt like crying. When I first came to North America and learning about the culture here, my first hero was Martin Luther King. I remember that goosebumps I had when I first heard the "I have a dream" speech. So, when Obama went back on the civil rights movement back in the days, it was almost too much for me to bear. It was amazing for not only the fulfillment of an old dream, but the start of a new one. Even though Obama is black and I am Chinese, I've always felt that I could relate to him. I related to him as someone who was born into a situation without much expectations, but managed to do well in life with the support of a loving family. When he spelt out a dream, he was not only doing it for black people, mixed-racial people or single parent people, but also for those who on the surface do not seem to share a life story with him. I'm a Canadian living in America, so I'm caught in the economic downfall like everyone else is. I wish that the change he speaks of will become beneficial to people in America and the rest of the world.

As for his policies, I personally don't support a lot of them. I'm very fiscally conservative and also believe that offshore drilling should be allowed and nuclear power should be the largest part of a clean air initiative. I like Ron Paul the most. I personally think that his economic policies would've been the most positive for America, but they are too radical for the main stream media and the public. Basically, I like the old school conservatism that believed in small government, pragmatic foreign policy and low taxes (which no one can label the present day Republicans). So despite having such a leaning, I never looked away from Barack's character, leadership and intelligence. These are qualities that I did not see to the same degree in any other candidates.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

252 is launched

One of the members on SDF asked me last night if the 2nd F-22P was launched and I just answered no. Of course, I didn't get a chance to check the military forums, because of the Halloween stuff. When I checked it this morning, it was a little embarrassing that I was wrong about it. Anyhow, here are some of the photos from 252 launching.

Also, we saw a new video + photos of the new CAC UAV that came out recently. I'm convinced this thing is not going to be a major part of PLA, because they normally keep new systems tightly under the wrap. Only export items like JF-17 and L-15 get shown right from the start.

Also, some additional news:
  • Venezuela reduced the order of K-8s from 24 to 18
  • Harbin received an order for 4 Z-9s from Kenya
  • China will get help from Russia in its goal of building a heavy helicopter with maximum start-off weight of around 30 tons
  • They have also purchased 4 Mi-26s from Russia
Next week is the Zhuhai airshow, so we will get plenty of news coming out, stay tuned.