Monday, March 29, 2010


So recently, AC313 made its maiden flight. As previously known, it is just an improved civilian version of the Z-8 series, which is basically Chinese version of SA-321, first purchased from the French in the 80s. In fact, the internal designation of AC313 is Z-8F-100 as shown in one of the pictures I've attached. Below is the translation of an article on AC313.

AC313 is China's first large transport helicopter designed accoring to flight regulation and China's only only self designed/produced larger helicopter. It fills a vacuum in the large civilian helicopter segment. AC313 is a traditional single-rotor helicopter with tail rotor tandem pilot seating, carries 3 turboshaft engine and non-retractable landing gear. It's maximum starting weight is 13.8 ton and is suitable for use in ocean climate and other complex environmental condition. It can takeoff and land in most field type. It can be used to transport people and goods, do search & rescue, perform emergency rescue and disaster relief.

Rotor system uses advanced composite material for blade and titanium ball shaped main rotor. Composite material is used on 50% of the helicopter and titanium is used for the remainder. The avionics system uses the international standard's 429 databaus, achieving digital integrated display control. AC313 reaches 3rd generation level interionally and has the following safety requirements:
- The rotor system can achieve 30 minutes of dry rotation
- fuel system and fuselage structure satisfy crash and radar safety requirements.
- pilot and passenger seating passed anti-crash safety requirements
- fuselage structure, flight control sytem and rotary wing system satisfies bird collision requirement
- helicopter systems satisfy lightning strike and high-strength radiation protection requirement
- cabin setup satisfies requirement of passengers getting out in emergency situations
- rotor and composite material structure meet the fatigue assessment based on damage tolerance requirements
- Mechanical systems satisfies the design requirements of high-energy rotor burst protection

AC313 uses composite material for rotor system and FADEC engine, large usage of composite material, integrated avionics systems, digital design and newest airworthiness safety requirement. It allows China to jump from 2nd to 3rd generation in large transport helicopter technology. Due to emphasis in maintenance detail design, service life reliability design and design, AC313's service life usage economics has improvement over previous models.
AC313 has 7 special achievement in functionality.
1. High reliability. It has 3 engines and can still operate if one of the engines fails and can land when 2 engines fail.
2. Strictly follows fungal protection, heat/humidity protection and salt fog protection. Is suitable to use in ocean condition and other harzaradous environment
3. Large space. Cabin is 1.83 m and 23.5 m^3 in space. And average height Chinese person can walk in it standing up. Has comfortable seating and interior. Can be converted to VIP variant.
4. Can carry 4 tonne of inside the helicopter or 5 tonnes on a sling. Can carry a maximum of 27 passengers or 15 stretchers with one medical personnel seating and operational station. Can easily install fixed cargo.
5. Has long range. 900 km with full internal fuel and has ferry range of over 1400 km when carrying 3 fuel tanks.
6. Has excellent sterring system, combined with four-axis autopilot, operating load is small, good flying qualities.
7. Can be used in evironment from -40 to +50 celsius. Can fly an altitude of 6000 m and takeoff and land at 4500 m high airpot.
AC313's well designed aerodynamics, advanced rotor system, rotor system's low stalling rate, tail rotor's strong ability against side wind have pushed Chinese large transport helicopter past technological bottlenecks. Has ability to fly in highland, mountainous regions and other complex geographical regions.

Here are some of the photos showing the cockpit of AC-313, test flights and registration:

So, it is clearly a heavily modified version of Z-8. Unfortunately at the moment, AVIC-1 is still stuck in the stage of co-developing helicopter with more advanced helicopter companies or modifying Z-8/9/11s. After years of struggling with Z-8 production, they have at least managed to crank up production of this series. As seen with Z-8F, AC-313 should at least get some orders from Chinese companies for different roles like firefighting, transport and SAR missions. I also think it will eventually be adapted for the navy to be used on future carriers or LPDs. It could also be used by the army for SAR or transport roles (like with Z-8Ks). If that's the case, then they would have to eventually develop domestic engines to put on militarized AC-313. Either way, if AC-313 does reach the designed specs, it will be a step forward for the Chinese helicopter industry. Just as important, if the production rate of AC-313 can satisfy both civilian and military demand, it would also be a step forward for the Chinese helicopter industry which produced less than 3 Z-8s a year for much of the 90s and early 2000s.

Interestingly enough, we also saw a new version (or one modified from existing Z-8Js) of Z-8 carrying gun pod.

It is most likely carrying QJK-99, which is sometimes seen carried on Z-9s. Here is a link on QJK-99 in Chinese. This version of Z-8 gunship could be fielded on 071 in the future. It's certainly a development worth keeping our eyes out for.

We've also seen Z-8KH join service in Hong Kong. So, we are continuing to see a lot of projects involving this old platform, which is now about to get a new facelift.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Russia and India

Reaction from Recent Putin's trip to India

Putin recently made a trip to India and signed a plethora of deals worth $10 billion. The deals include several nuclear power plants and military contracts worth $4 billion. I find it interesting that the Western media's over-reaction to this trip. A common theme seems to be that the good relationship developed with India during the Bush Administration is getting squandered by Obama Administration's policies. Obama's policies were described as ignoring India while favoring engagements with "bad countries" like China and Pakistan. And due to America's neglect, India has ran back to its traditional all-weather friend Russia. And Russia is sick of China copying its weapons and value India far more.

Needless to say, I found much of these articles to be comical. While it is true that India is getting less attention from America with Obama in power, I really don't think it had much to do with these contracts. When Bush signed that landmark nuclear power deal with India, other nuclear power exporters like Russia and France were also excited that they now have an NPT-exception to sell to India. It should be to no one's surprise that India chooses to diversify its nuclear power purchases between US, France and Russia to get the best available technology for the lowest price. That is what China is doing right now with building AP-1000, EPR, Candu and AES-91 at the same time. It seems like India is a huge nuclear energy market, so I don't think American firms like Westinghouse, GE and McDermott would be missing out.

The military agreements that came out from this trip seem to be the new terms for the Gorshkov refitting project, additional Mig-29Ks and more signings to the 5th generation fighter project. All three of these agreements are basically additional agreements to existing projects. Does it really surprise anyone that India wants to conclude this Gorshkov saga and use the same naval fighter on all of its aircraft carriers? These decisions were made in the earlier part of this decade and really do not have anything to do with the current political climate. And with the first flight of T-50, India clearly thinks that this is the best and fastest way for it to get into the 5th generation of fighter jets. There were also talks of India purchasing additional Su-30MKIs from Russia. I think that will also happen due to the delays in the MRCA and LCA projects. Russia has always been a reliable supplier to India. There really is no reason for India to cut them out just because Western countries are join in now. America has already scored several major contracts like the P-8I and C-130J orders. It is still in competition for utility helicopters, Project 17A, missile defense, various army RFPs and the MRCA project. So while the Russians continue to sell well to India, America is in no way getting left out.

I also do not see Russia selling certain weapon systems to India as an indication that its relationship with China is decreasing. It is true that Russia is fairly pissed out at China for declining purchases and allegedly copying several of its export (although as I have stated in the past, it really is nowhere as bad as the Russians claim). However, that is due to China's much improved military industrial complex and increased military cooperation with Ukraine and Belarus (at the expense of Russia) than weapons not being available. Over the last few years, military exports have become a much smaller part of the bilateral relationship. Otherwise, the leaders of the two nations would not be meeting so often.

In conclusion, Putin's trip to India is reaffirms the decade long friendship of the two countries. The military cooperation between the two countries will continue to flourish. However, people should not see this as a rebut to the US/India relationship. India is already a power to be reckoned with and will become a superpower at sometime this century. Its relationship with Russia cannot possibly go back to the cold war period, when it was a little brother to one of the two super powers. Its relationship with US will only expand as it becomes more and more involved in the world economy. And sadly, its relationship with China will become only more complex as their growing economic ties are overshadowed by the mutual distrust. Things will never go back to the way they were in the cold war days.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Varyag is out

Well, these pictures came out this weekend.

Shows that Varyag has left the dry docks in Dalian with the modified island. Although at this point, they really haven't put any of the sensors on the island yet. Looks like all of the dry dock work has been done and they will start to really install on the electronics now.

What I hear is that they completely redesigned the inside of the ship. They put a lot of serious investment into putting Varyag back into service, so it may serve past just having training purpose. Just waiting patiently for the next stage now.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Latest SIPRI report

In the recent times, SIPRI posted a new report regarding the military sales in the five year period from 2005-2009. There are some reports on it regarding to China's affect on the military sales in this period.

I think this article from WPR pretty much summarized what all the other articles have been saying.

It is quite clear that a lot of the Southeastern Asian nations are building up their forces during the past 5 years. That is confirmed by the report. However, I can't really definitively say that all of the countries are aiming at China. In the case of Vietnam, it's quite obvious that the recent purchases for the Kilo submarines and Su-30 fighter jets were aimed at China. I have talked about those purchases before and have labeled them as basically a waste of money. In the case of Indonesia, their purchases have pretty much been to just replace American weapons after America stopped supplying parts for those weapon systems. In fact, one could argue that those purchases were made in response to Australia and Singapore rather than China. It also explains why China has no qualms about selling weapons to Indonesia. In the case of Malaysia and Singapore, I think their purchases are aimed at each other as well as China. In many cases, one would ask why Malaysia needs to spend so much money on its defense. One could say that they are fearful of Chinese rise, but one could also say that they are just fearful of the more modern arsenal of Singapore. In both countries' cases, the rise in military import is also a cyclical issue. For example, Singapore only needs to buy fighter jets every x number of years. It just happens that it made a major purchase for F-15SGs during this 5 year period.

It did surprise me that China remained the largest importer of weapons during this period, because it seemed to have been so long since they actually bought anything meaningful. The report also acknowledged that China have only been buying some helicopters and engines for different platforms since 2007. Although, they did receive some S-300PMU2 from the Russians in 2008. Looking back, a large part of their purchases made in the wake of Bush's approval for Taiwan military sales were delivered in 2005 and 2006. I would expect the figures to drop quite a bit in the next 5 years, which would cause China to loose the title of the world's top importer of weapons. That would certainly be a good thing. However, they still do have quite a few items that would be considered foreign purchases like the Zubr deal, Ka-28/Mi-171 purchases, possibly another batch of AL-31FN for J-10, more RD-93s for JF-17s, D-30KP2 for H-6Ks, diesel engines for 054 series, engines for Z-8/Z-9/Z-10/Z-15. They could also potentially buy S-400 and Il-76/78s from the Russians, but we will have to wait and see.

I also read an article where the Russians complained that China is not buying more weapons from them. The truth is that they just need to get used to the fact that what they are selling is not all that appealing.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lushae Jewelry Review

This is going to be a random musing, different from my normal posts.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Sarah of Lushae Jewelry to give a review of a product from her website. She was very nice about everything (I got the item to review for free!) and I looked through a decent selection of Jewelry on her website. For all the guys out there (I figure that's the majority of my reader), this is a good website to visit to get presents for your wives and girlfriends. They have different types of rings, earrings and necklaces on sale. I find the prices to be pretty good. I found similar items in a store like Swarovski to be much more expensive. And I normally consider Swarovski to be pretty affordable. This is a picture of the Edwardian necklace that I ended up getting (obtained from their website + its specifications:

Stone Colors: Clear / White
Lead Free: Yes
Setting Type: Prong
Clasp: Spring Ring
Item Weight: 5.5g
Carat Weight: 5.7ct
Chain: 16in + 2in Extender
Length: 31mm
Width: 24mm
Height: 6mm

I have to say that the picture above really doesn't do justice for the actual necklace. You can't really go wrong with a White Gold Rhodium layer, which makes it shine. And also since it is a type of platinum, you don't really have to worry about rusting or anything like that. The design itself is done really with a nice touch. I can't say much except that a female friend of my selected it and she really likes the design! All in all, I think all my readers out there will be able to find something intriguing on this website that they can afford (mostly in the $60-70 range) to buy for a loved one. The designs are simple, but elegant and attractive.