Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Chinese Commandos Train To Kill Pirates
The Chinese South Sea Fleet recently conducted an anti-terrorism drill in which commandos flew to a merchant ship and then assaulted it by rappelling down from the helicopter and "cleared" the vessel of pirates and "rescued" the crew. Earlier this month, a Chinese cargo ship, the "Delight", and its 25 man crew, was taken by Somali pirates. About the same time, a Chinese fishing boat, with a crew of 24, was also taken by Somali pirates off the coast of Kenya. China has said it will contribute forces to help deal with the Somali pirates.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
China's fighters undercut Sukhoi in African markets
By ANDREI CHANG
HONG KONG (UPI) -- China's J-10A air superiority combat fighter aircraft falls into the same category as the U.S.-made F-16 Block 40, but it costs at least one-third less.
The People's Republic of China has already started to manufacture a next-version J-11B, based on the Russian Sukhoi Su-27SK.
China denies that its aircraft is an imitation of the famous and highly regarded Russian fighter, as its measurements are smaller. Therefore China does not consider the J-11B to be subject to the Sukhoi Su-27SK licensing agreement or its export restrictions. The J-11B is also likely to be fitted with Chinese WS10A engines and sold in Africa.
In general, the price of Chinese weapons is still about one-third lower than comparable Russian weapons. More importantly, what China wants from Africa is resources, especially crude oil, and it has already exported substantial numbers of weapons in exchange for oil. In dealing with oil-producing countries China has an advantage over Russia, which as a major world oil producer has no need to trade weapons for oil.
For instance, China sold 15 J-7 fighters to oil-rich Nigeria in 2005. Nigeria is another country that has purchased most of its military hardware from Russia in the past. It has a fleet of Russian Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21MF fighters, and the Nigerian army is equipped with 100 Russian T55 main battle tanks.
The one African country where Chinese arms purchases have completely replaced those from Russia is Egypt. Since tilting toward the U.S.-led Western camp in 1979, Egypt has continued to import Chinese arms. With technological support from China, Egypt has assembled 80 K-8 trainers and is assembling another 40, for a total of 120 K-8 trainers in the Egyptian air force. This makes it China's top customer for this item.
Egypt still has weapon systems from the Soviet Union, including at least 800 T54/55 MBTs, 200 sealed BMP-1 IFVs and about 60 MiG-21s for training purposes. But because of an insufficient supply of parts, Egypt decided to switch to Chinese aircraft and purchased 53 J-7 fighters from China.
Other African countries that have acquired China's K-8 trainers include Zambia with eight aircraft, Namibia with four, Zimbabwe with 12, Ghana with four and Sudan with 12. China also has had contacts with these countries concerning its FC-1 fighters.
All these countries have traditionally been Russia's weapons clients. The Namibian army has T54/55 tanks and its air force is equipped with Russian An-26 transport aircraft. Meanwhile, Namibia has also purchased two Y-12 transport aircraft from China.
Zambia uses both Chinese and Russian arms. The Zambian army is equipped with both T44s and Chinese T59 MBTs, which are now undergoing an upgrade with help from China. The Zambian air force also uses both MiG-21 and J-6 fighters.
China has exported to Zimbabwe T59 and T69 MBTs, and most of its ground forces' equipment is from China. Of course Russian SAM-7 surface-to-air missiles are still in service here. The Zimbabwean air force has six MiG-23 fighters and nine J-7 fighters.
(Andrei Chang is editor in chief of Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, registered in Toronto.)
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
China launches for record 11th time in 2008
BY STEPHEN CLARK
December 23, 2008
China launched a new geostationary weather satellite early Tuesday, marking the country's 11th successful space launch of the year and setting a new record for Chinese space activity.
The Feng Yun 2E satellite blasted off aboard a Long March 3A rocket at 0054 GMT (8:54 a.m. local time) from the Xichang launch center in southwestern China's Sichuan province.
The 172-foot-tall launcher flew east from Xichang and deployed the 3,064-pound spacecraft about 24 minutes after liftoff, according to the state-owned Xinhua news agency.
Feng Yun 2E will join a fleet of geostationary weather satellites operated by the China Meteorological Administration. The spacecraft will collect real-time weather imagery for forecasters in China and neighboring countries.
The new satellite will replace Feng Yun 2C, which was launched in 2004 and is stationed along the equator at 105 degrees east longitude.
China also operates a constellation of weather satellites in polar orbit. A new craft was added to that group during a launch earlier this year.
Tuesday's mission was the 11th Chinese space launch of the year, breaking the country's previous record number of launches set last year.
The launch also pushed China past the 10 successful orbital flights conducted by U.S. expendable launch vehicles in 2008. Those missions were flown by Delta 2, Atlas 5, Pegasus and Falcon 1 rockets.
Long March rockets have completed 115 launches since China orbited its first satellite in 1970, Xinhua reported.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
China to send 3 ships to Somalia to battle pirates
BEIJING (AP) — China's navy will send three ships to the waters off Somalia this week to protect Chinese vessels and crews from pirate attacks, state media said.
Two destroyers and a supply ship will leave the island province of Hainan in southern China on Dec. 26, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
They will patrol the Gulf of Aden and areas off the Somali coast, Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said in a statement issued late Saturday.
"Their major task is to protect the safety of Chinese ships and crew on board as well as ships carrying humanitarian relief material for international organizations," Liu said.
Piracy has taken an increasingly costly toll on international shipping, especially in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest sea lanes. Spurred by widespread poverty in their homeland, the pirates have made an estimated $30 million hijacking ships for ransom this year, seizing more than 40 vessels off Somalia's 1,880-mile (3,000-kilometer) coastline.
Earlier this week, Liu said about 20 percent of the 1,265 Chinese ships passing through the area have come under attack so far this year. Seven hijackings have involved Chinese ships or crews.
Experts say most of the commercial ships are not armed, meaning crews have few options when attacked. A Chinese cargo ship's crew, aided by the international anti-piracy force, fought off an attempted hijacking this week using Molotov cocktails and water hoses.
China's plans to send warships is a cautious step toward more engagement.
Though Beijing has a huge global commercial maritime presence, the People's Liberation Army Navy has primarily focused on defending China's coast and, until now, limited operations abroad to port calls, goodwill visits and exercises with other navies.
The Chinese fleet would join ships from the U.S., Denmark, Italy, Russia and other countries in patrolling the Gulf of Aden, which leads to the Suez Canal and is the quickest route from Asia to Europe and the Americas.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
$278m AWACS deal struck with China
Thursday, December 18, 2008
By Rauf Klasra
ISLAMABAD: In an effort to help the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) boost its air defence capability, Islamabad has struck a $278 million deal with Beijing to purchase a modern Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), legislators were informed here on Wednesday.
Pakistan is said to be the first country in the region to buy the Chinese AWACS system, which Beijing started developing in 2004 after the Americans stopped the Israeli government from selling the system worth $1billion to Beijing.
Under mounting pressure from Washington, Tel Aviv scrapped the contract to the disappointment of the Chinese, who badly needed the system for possible use against Taiwan. The details of the contract between Pakistan and China were placed before the National Assembly on Wednesday by Minister for Defence Production Abdul Qayyum Khan Jatoi.
The documents placed before the National Assembly reveal that under the multi-million dollar deal, China will provide the system to Pakistan in the next four years. The most important thing from Pakistan's perspective is that China has agreed to supply the system on deferred payment. The contract has been awarded to MS CETC China.
The story of China starting the development of its own airborne warning and control system is interesting. Until 2004, Beijing had not even thought of making its own AWACS system. Just like Pakistan, China was heavily dependent on foreign countries in improving the performance of its air force.
Information gathered from various sources revealed China launched work on its own system after the US blocked its move to develop radar surveillance aircraft. Washington even vetoed the sale of such systems China wanted to deploy in the Taiwan Strait. Military specialists said the Chinese system used domestically-produced advanced radar mounted on a Russian-made Il-76 transport aircraft.
Chinese military technicians have been struggling to acquire AWACS-type equipment ever since the United States coerced Israel in 2000 into backing out of a $1 billion agreement on selling to China four of its Phalcon phased-array radar systems.
The systems would have used Il-76 aircraft as a platform, but the main US concern in blocking the sale was that China would gain a military advantage over Taiwan. Moreover, under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the US government pledged to help Taiwan defend itself against a possible Chinese attack, meaning the US forces could become involved, should fighting erupt.
For the same reason, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) air force leaders were determined to acquire such planes. After the 2000 Israeli fiasco, the PLA made it a matter of pride to prove to the Americans they could not be denied AWACS.
Initially, China turned to Russia, its traditional source of military equipment. Beijing concluded a deal to buy four Beriev A-50 Mainstay radar planes, which are roughly the Russian equivalent of the US Air Force's E-3 Sentry AWACS. The purchase was believed to be the first phase of an agreement for eight Russian aircraft.
At the same time, Chinese scientists were working on their own radar equipment. It is not known whether the Russian aircraft were ever delivered, which would have provided a look at the technology, or whether the technicians obtained help from Israeli or Russian counterparts.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
China on Monday launched a remote-sensing satellite, "Yaogan V," from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in north Shanxi Province. The satellite was launched with a Long March-4B carrier rocket at 11:22 a.m., the center said.
The satellite will be used for data collection and transmission involving land resources surveys, environmental surveillance and protection, urban planning, crop yield estimates, disaster prevention and reduction, and space science experiments.
Xu Hongliang, director of the center, said the flight had been carried out under extreme low temperature, with the lowest reaching minus 29 degrees celsius in the past few days.
However, its success showed that the designing of the launcher, which was put into use in September, was up to standard and capable of working in low temperature.
The center's staff had also drawn on successful domestic and foreign experience of low-temperature launching and made much effort for its success, he said.
The satellite's predecessor, "Yaogan IV," was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern Gansu Province earlier this month. "Yaogan III" was launched from Taiyuan on Nov.12, 2007.
The "Yaogan I" and "Yaogan II" satellites were launched in April 2006 and May 2007, respectively.
The satellite was developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., while the rocket was designed by the Shanghai Academy of Space flight Technology, which is under the corporation.
The flight was the 114th of the Long March series of carrier rockets.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Analysis: Ukraine aids China carrier plan
by Andrei Chang
The People's Republic of China has been sending military personnel to the former Soviet republic of Ukraine to learn how the country trains its aircraft carrier pilots, in preparation for the aircraft carrier battle group it eventually plans to build.
According to a source in the Ukrainian military industry, China first sent a large naval delegation, headed by the deputy chief of the People's Liberation Army navy, to visit the Ukrainian navy aviation force training centers in the southern port cities of Odessa and Sevastopol in October 2006.
The Chinese visited the Research Test and Flying Training Center at Nitka on the Crimean peninsula, and the two sides discussed the possibility of Ukraine helping to train China's navy aviation force and aircraft carrier pilots, the source said. Since then, Chinese engineers, pilots and naval technical experts have made frequent visits to Nitka.
The focus of much of China's current military cooperation with the Russian Federation and Ukraine is on producing large aircraft and an aircraft carrier. Ukraine has provided China with a prototype of its T-10K shipborne fighter. By dissecting the T-10K -- an earlier variant of the Sukhoi Su-33 fighter -- China hopes to acquire the capability to independently develop its own shipborne fighters.
The single T-10K that China purchased from Ukraine originally was based at the Nitka center, which is equipped with a range of simulators to train pilots in jump takeoffs, arresting landings and contingency responses. The training modules simulate the release of the arresting hook on takeoff and its use on landing at a speed of 155 miles per hour.
The Nitka center previously trained a generation of Soviet pilots on the Sukhoi Su-33 and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29K fighters. Now the 297th Fighter Regiment of the Russian navy aviation force is undergoing training there.
As this author reported earlier for United Press International, China has imported four sets of aircraft carrier landing assistance equipment and arresting hooks. The Chinese are in the process of building their own aircraft carrier training base, which is why they have been so keenly interested in Nitka's simulators, training software, management procedures and technologies.
The training of aircraft carrier fighter pilots is a crucial step in putting together an aircraft carrier fleet. The training program is extremely harsh. According to the Ukrainian source, the most basic training for short-distance takeoffs, landings and ski-jumps would take at least six months.
Ukraine was once the main training center for the Soviet Union's aircraft carrier fighter pilots. It now intends to train navy pilots not only for China but also for India and other countries that aspire to possess aircraft carriers, a source from Nitka told United Press International.
The Indian navy is in the process of purchasing an aircraft carrier from Russia, as well as Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29K and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29UBK fighters, the first batch of which is expected to be delivered to India by the end of the year -- already a year later than scheduled. The pilots for those fighters most likely will be trained at Nitka.
China's dealings with Ukraine reconfirm that the People's Liberation Army navy is moving forward on its aircraft carrier project. The Chinese carrier apparently is based on a Russian design; otherwise China would not be interested in Ukraine's simulators. This means China's aircraft carrier very likely will adopt the Russian methods of ski-jump takeoff and landing.
China has also taken practical steps to build an aircraft carrier training base. The first step is to train shipborne fighter pilots at this base, followed by basic short-distance takeoff and landing training on the disabled Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag that China purchased in 1998.
Sources from the Ukrainian military industry have confirmed to United Press International on several occasions that the Varyag is unlikely to be restored to an operational fighter aircraft carrier, and most likely will be used only as a training platform.
Although the ship was purchased by a Hong Kong company ostensibly to be converted into a casino, Ukrainian sources told United Press International that they were aware of China's intentions from the beginning to use it for military purposes. The aircraft carrier, repainted with the colors of the PLA navy, is now in the Chinese port city of Dalian.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
This article published in Jane’s Defense Weekly
Details have emerged of China’s next generation J-11B heavy air superiority fighter aircraft, a further development of Sukhoi’s Su-27SK (Chinese designation J-11) that ended production in 2004 ahead of its planned run.
Shenyang Aviation Corporation (SAC) assembled 95 J-11 fighters from imported Russian components, although the original project had called for 200 aircraft, and it is likely production was stopped in anticipation of the improved J-11B.
Although based on the Su-27SK, the latest incarnation has substantial improvements including a reduced radar cross-section (RCS), strengthened airframe and an improved fire control radar as well as new flight control system, glass cockpit and engine.
The improvements are planned to nake the aircraft to a fourth generation platform; the Yanliang Flight Test Center currently has three J-11B under testing (No 521, No 523 and No 524).
The most significant change for the aircraft is improved stealth; the changes are planned to bring the RCS from the 15 sqm of the Su-27 to under 5 sqm and possible as low as 3 sqm.
The change is not to the dynamic shape of the aircraft but involves the modification of the air intake lip with a radar wave shield and the installation of radar absorbing materials on the intake interior. In addition the RCS will be reduced with Chinese made signature reduction paint.
The strengthening of the airframe, a key aspect since the life expectancy of the aircraft has been criticised by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, has been achieved through wind-tunnel tests of weapons carriage.
Additionally, the empty weight of the aircraft has been reduced by about 700 kg through the use of composite materials.
It is believed a further 10,000 hours has been added to the life of the aircraft compared with the Su-27SK.
The radar installed on the J-11B is believed to be more powerful than the Type 1473 installed on the J-10; it is estimated to be able to track 20 targets and simultaneously lock onto six targets.
J-11B will incorporate a quadruply-redundant digital fly-by-wire flight control system with mechanical back-up. Additionally, the aircraft has a fully glass cockpit but there are two variants - a reflecting head-up display (HUD) with four multi-function displays (MFDs) and a holographic HUD with three MFDs.
It is likely the former cockpit is for ground attack and the latter for air combat. The new cockpits integrate fire control radar, electro-optic countermeasure pods and infra-red search and track.
The improved radar and cockpit have allowed for the integration of newer weapons such as the CATIC PL-12 active radar-guided air-to-air missile.
The J-11 AL-31F engine will be replaced with the WS10A turbofan, providing longer lifespan and reduced fuel consumption.
Beyond J-12, China has plans for a carrier borne J-13, unlikely to be realised before 2015; the J-14, which is planned as a competitor to Lockheed Martin’s F-22, on the distant horizon at 2018; a two-seat J-11BS (2009); a naval J-11J (2010) and two-seat J-11JS (2011); and an improved J-13G and a navalised J-13J (2017).
More aircraft and unmanned combat aerial vehicles are being considered for even further in the future but new aircraft types will need to rise above the financial, political and industrial challenges that are likely to plague the programmes.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
BELGAUM, India - A week of China-India army joint anti-terrorism training kicked off on Saturday with performances of tai chi and Indian martial arts.
The 'Hand in Hand 2008' training is scheduled to end on December 12.
Qin Xiangyou, who is in charge of Chinese soldiers participating in the sessions, said during opening ceremonies that the joint training was aimed at promoting the two armies' mutual understanding and trust.
He also said it was a way for the armies to develop their friendship, and expand the fields for exchanges and cooperation.
After the ceremony, Chinese and Indian soldiers displayed their weapons.
Moreover, Chinese soldiers performed tai chi and anti-terror shooting skills, while their Indian counterparts put on a display of the country's traditional martial arts.
During the sessions, the soldiers will train in anti-terror shooting and raids, exchange views on anti-terror theories and civilian and judicial issues, and carry out comprehensive drills with the theme of closing, controlling and searching.
China and India conducted their first anti-terror joint training in southwest China's Yunnan province last year.
China and India are the world's biggest developing countries. Peace and friendship between them is not only in the interests of both countries, but also important for bringing peace, stability and prosperity to South Asia, Ouyang Wei, professor of the University of National Defense, said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on Friday.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
By Andrei Chang
Hong Kong, China — Ukraine and China have been engaged in negotiations on the joint design of a large military transport aircraft, according to sources in the Ukrainian Antonov Aircraft Company. The agreement was expected to be inked this month, with the aircraft project to begin soon afterward.
According to a source in the Ukrainian military industry, the basic design concept of the aircraft has already been finalized. The Chinese military transport aircraft will adopt different design concepts and technologies than the An-70 transport aircraft designed by Ukraine and Russia, the source said, and will be powered by four jet engines. Additional technical details of the transport aircraft are to be finalized after the November signing.
In recent years, China has greatly reinforced its strategic military ties with Ukraine in a variety of areas, but this is the two countries’ first collaboration in developing a large aircraft. A source from the Russian aviation industry says that China did not ask for Russian assistance on this project, suggesting that China is shifting its design cooperation away from Russia and toward Ukraine. It also indicates that the new aircraft will be an upgrade of the An-70 rather than a duplication of it.
China expressed keen interest in the An-70 as early as the mid-1990s, when the aircraft was undergoing flight tests in Russia and Ukraine. The aircraft did not get off to an auspicious start, however. The first prototype was tested in Kiev, Ukraine, in December, 1994, but the same plane crashed the following year. The second prototype was damaged in an accident at Omsk, Russia, in 2001.
In 2002, Russia and Ukraine agreed to each take a 50 percent stake in the project, and two more prototypes were manufactured. But by April, 2006, following the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, Russia decided to withdraw from the project.
The aircraft is still under test. The Ukrainian Air Force appears to be the only buyer, having announced its intent to procure five of the An-70s. China’s decision to design its own large military transport aircraft on the foundation of the An-70 technologies is apparently intended to take advantage of the extensive testing the aircraft has already undergone, to save research and development time.
The Anatov source has confirmed the Chinese military transport aircraft will not be fitted with the An-70’s D-27 engine, though it did not disclose what type of engine will be used. The D-27 has an output thrust power of 14,000 horsepower, maximum payload of 47 tons and a flight range of 6,600 kilometers (with a payload of 20 tons).
China has recently imported 240 D-30 KP-2 engines from Russia to use in upgrading its H-6K bombers. It is unlikely that this engine would be used for the military transport plane, however. Russia is already replacing some of the D-30KP-2 engines on its Il-76 airlifter with upgraded D-30 KP-3 or PS-90 engines. The D-30KP-2 does not meet Europe’s latest noise control standards, so the Il-76 aircraft powered by these engines are not allowed to land at European airports.
The dispute over a deal involving China’s import of 38 Russian aircraft – 30 Il-76 transport aircraft and eight Il-78 air-to-air refueling tankers – has not been completely resolved. The Russian side insists that the price of the aircraft agreed in a 2005 deal is no longer viable.
The Il-76 is still the mainstay export platform for Russia, hence Russia has not agreed to transfer its production technology to China, nor have the two sides initiated negotiations on this particular issue, according to a source from the Russian aviation industry. It is because of this that China has turned its attention to Ukraine.
Alexander Mikheev, vice president of Rosoboronexport, Russia’s official defense industry exporter, told the author in a recent interview at a U.K. air show that China still intended to pursue the negotiations on the Il-76 and Il-78 aircraft, and the contract was still in effect.
“We demanded to re-discuss the price of the aircraft,” said Mikheev. He denied that a price had already been agreed upon, however. “We are only demanding that the new price should be in line with the international standard,” he said.
Regarding the timeline of resuming production and assembling the aircraft, he stressed that Russia had already allocated funds to build a new factory at Ulianovsk, and the production of the Il-76 transport aircraft would begin in 2011.
China does not have much experience in the design and production of large transport aircraft, nor are its current projects in this area proceeding smoothly. An example is the Y8F-600 medium-sized military transport plane, for which Antonov agreed in 2002 to provide design assistance.
Even though reports from China claim the plane has already been tested, a source from the Ukrainian aviation industry says its maiden flight has been repeatedly put off and has yet to take place.
According to the original design, the Y8F-600 is powered by four PW150B turboprop engines produced by Pratt & Whitney Canada, with British R408 propellers. Test engines have been delivered to China from Canada, purportedly for use in civilian aircraft.
Yet due to pressure from the United States to restrict exports of military technology to China, it is questionable whether Canada will ultimately allow the export of enough P&W engines to meet China’s production needs. Under this circumstance, China will have no choice but to use Russian or Ukrainian engines in its military transport aircraft.
(Andrei Chang is editor-in-chief of Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, registered in Toronto, Canada.)