Monday, May 25, 2009

China sells satellites with military potential to oil-producing nations


China has sold three communications satellites to Nigeria, Venezuela and Pakistan that have military capabilities, a service life of 15 years and are equipped with C-band frequency and 18 channels of Ku-band frequency transmitters.

The performance characteristics of all three of these satellites were basically the same, and all of them were to be launched by CZ-3B carrier rockets.

However, the communications satellite for Nigeria stopped functioning less than one year after it went into operation when its solar array drive assembly failed. This posed a major challenge to the credibility of China-made communications satellites. Two weeks ago, China announced it would replace the Nigerian satellite in 2011 at no charge.

The satellites were developed on the foundation of the domestic Dong Fang Hong IV communications satellite. Of course, all of them can be used for military communications as well as civilian purposes -- a matter of concern to the U.S. military. The United States had asked China not to assist Venezuela with its satellite project, but its request was ignored.

The United States is concerned about China exporting military-use satellites and providing launch services to "rogue nations." The People's Republic of China's indifference to this U.S. concern can be seen as a tactic to exert pressure on the United States to halt its sales of advanced arms to Taiwan.

China is now actively cultivating oil-producing nations as customers for its satellites and launch services. China's strategy has been effective so far, and its exports of military equipment have been boosted as a result. Nigeria and Venezuela are among the newest clients of Chinese-made military equipment.

Nigeria has purchased a number of J-7 air-superiority combat fighters from China. In November, shortly after its satellite launch, Venezuela announced that it would purchase 18 K-8 trainers from China.

Iran is another customer that China is pursuing for its satellite sales and launch services. In 2006 China provided a VSAT communications-satellite program to Iran's TA Co. valued at more than $500,000. This satellite network provided voice communications, data and video transmission service to the Iranian oil company, which is believed to have paid for the system with crude oil.

Programs involving satellite technologies often involve huge sums of money, through which full-scale economic and trade relations can be expanded. Following its satellite launch for Nigeria, China won an $8.3 billion project to restructure Nigeria's railway network. However, after the communications satellite stopped functioning, Nigeria coldly declared it would suspend the contract with China.

In Angola, when the Angola state television station upgraded to DStv satellite channels, China Electronics Import and Export Corp. provided an entire satellite TV program production and transmission center. Angola is China's second-largest source of imported oil.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mozambique gets $3m in Chinese military aid

MAPUTO (AFP) — Mozambique will receive three million dollars in military aid from China under an agreement signed recently in Beijing, Mozambique's defence ministry said Wednesday.

A defence ministry spokesman said the money would be used to purchase logistical equipment.

"The Chinese defence ministry guaranteed that, despite the world financial crisis, it will continue to support the armed forces of Mozambique with logistical assistance and training," ministry spokesman Cristovao Artur Chume said in a statement.

China has taken a keen interest in Mozambique in recent years.

The country became Mozambique's second-largest investor last year, bringing in 76.8 million dollars (56 million euros) -- second only to neighbouring South Africa.

Chinese financing has funded such projects as a hydroelectric dam, a convention centre and a national football stadium.

China's role in Africa has expanded rapidly as its economy has boomed.

It is the continent's second-biggest trading partner after the United States, a relationship fuelled in part by petroleum imports from such oil-rich African countries as Angola and Sudan.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

China plans to export J-10

China readies J-10A fighter for export

By Andrei Chang and John Wu

Hong Kong, China — China is aiming at a substantial share of the international market for third-generation fighter aircraft, with a particular eye on oil-rich third-world countries as part of its arms-for-oil strategy. This was evidenced by the high-profile display of its J-10A fighter at the 2008 Zhuhai Air Show last November.

Chinese experts were observed giving exhaustive information on the J-10A to military delegations from Angola, Nigeria and Venezuela at the air show. Venezuela seemed most interested in the aircraft.

The first foreign buyer of the J-10A will be Pakistan, a source from the Chinese aviation industry said. In March, Pakistan’s Air Chief Marshall Tanvir Mehmood Ahmed confirmed that a deal with China had been reached, and the aircraft would be delivered in 2014 and 2015. The version for Pakistan will be called the FC-20.

However, there is an issue with the engine on this aircraft. The J-10A is currently equipped with Russian-made AL-31F aviation engines. It is unclear whether Russia will permit China to install these engines on its aircraft and then export them to Pakistan. Such a move would have not only economic but also political repercussions, considering that Pakistan’s rival, India, is a major purchaser of Russian arms.

For this reason, the export version of the J-10A fighter is still under design. Both the engine and the weapon systems on board will be different from the domestic version, according to the source from the Chinese aviation industry.

India has been using the Russian AL-31FP engine extensively in its fighter aircraft. If China exports large numbers of J-10P/FC-20 fighters outfitted with Russian engines to Pakistan, India will be much more concerned over this deal than with China’s earlier export of JF-17 2.5-generation fighters to Pakistan. As a third-generation combat aircraft, the J-10A will pose a real threat to the Indian Air Force.

With this concern, India sent a strong delegation to the Zhuhai Air Show to expand its contacts with the Chinese, led by its air chief of staff. The Indian Air Force’s aerobatics demonstration team also put on a performance at this event.

At the Singapore Air Show earlier last year, Indian Air Chief Marshall Fali Homi Major had already carefully inspected the simulation cockpit of the JF-17, which is being jointly developed by China and Pakistan. His trip to Zhuhai was to examine the J-10A/ FC-20 fighter.

In contrast to India’s increased interest in engaging with China, Russia sent a much smaller delegation than usual to Zhuhai. For the first time, Russia did not exhibit any combat aircraft or radar systems at the air show. Some representatives of Russian enterprises even cancelled their planned trips to China at the last minute.

One member of the Russian military delegation described China-Russian arms trade as being in a long and drawn-out “winter.” A representative of Rosoboronexport, the agency that handles exports of Russian defense equipment, declined to comment on China’s possible export of J-10A fighters equipped with Russian AL-31F engines.

China did have its own indigenous engine on display at the show, the Taihang turbofan engine, with a thrust power of 13,200 kilograms – although some experts say it is only 12,800 kilograms. The Taihang’s exterior design and modular structure, as well as the processing and polishing technologies of the core machine and engine blades, seem to be an improvement over China’s previous aviation engines, but it is still far behind similar systems from Russia and Western countries.

Representatives of China’s Liming Motor Corporation refused to answer questions about the engine’s performance features. It is unclear why China decided to introduce this engine to the international market when it has not elected to use it on its own J-10 fighters.

A Chinese military source disclosed that China has been promoting the J-10A to Egypt, but it appears that no substantial negotiations have yet taken place. An authoritative source from the Russian military industry has said that Russia will not allow China to use its engines in exported planes if it perceives such sales as having a negative impact on Russia’s own export market. Egypt was once a major client of Russian arms, though it now buys little other than spare parts.

Pakistan, on the other hand, is not a traditional client of Russian aircraft. Therefore Russia allowed its engines to be used on the JF-17 fighters China is developing with Pakistan. The same arrangement may therefore hold for the J-10A.

The basic price for the J-10A is about US$29.3 million, according to the Chinese source. Considering that China aims to sell this fighter primarily to oil-producing countries – and is prepared to trade it for oil and other natural resources – it could be an attractive option for such countries.

A general assessment of the export version of the J-10A fighter can conclude that its engine has less thrust than the F-16 Block 52, while its radar system is more or less on a par with the Zhuk-ME multifunction radar on the Russian MiG-28 SMT. This is because Russia’s Phazotron Design Bureau exported to China three sets of its Zemchung multirole radar systems after 2001, allowing China to come up with its own version of the Zhuk-ME radar. This radar has a detection range of 120 kilometers for 5m2 aerial targets and can attack four targets in the air simultaneously.

In terms of the diversity and performance of its weapon systems, especially long-range attack weapons, the J-10A lags far behind the F-16 Block 52. The-air-to-air missiles loaded on the J-10A fighter at the Zhuhai exhibition were SD-10A AAMs with compound hardpoints. The SD-10A is a medium-range active radar-guided air-to-air missile upgraded from the SD-10, with its maximum range extended to 70 kilometers. Its length is 3.9 meters, diameter 203 millimeters, weight 198 kilograms, and maximum speed Mach 5.

The PL-12 air-to-air missiles currently in service in the PLA Air Force have undergone similar upgrading. Short-range missiles include the new-generation PL-5EII and PL-9C. The PL-5EII is equipped with a multichannel infrared seeker, the latest laser proximity fuse, and a rocket motor with a non-smoke propellant.

The air-to-ground weapons on the J-10A mainly include the LT-2 laser-guided bomb and the FT series of global positioning system-guided bombs. In recent years China has been imitating U.S. aviation combat weapons, a trend that is reflected in the weapon platforms on the J-10A, including its imitation U.S. joint direct attack munition serial bombs.

At the most recent Zhuhai show, China put on open display its FT-5 GPS-guided bomb. The FT-1 and FT-3 500/250-kilogram-class GPS-guided bombs were on display at the previous show in 2006. China also showed off its 500-kilogram-class FT-2 with gliding fins added. The FT-2 has an effective range of 15-90 kilometers, a circular error probability of 20 meters and an air-dropping altitude of 3,000 to 12,000 meters.

The FT-5 small-diameter bomb copies the latest design of the U.S. military. A designer of the system said that the FT-5’s warhead has a weight of 35 kilograms and a circular error probability of 15 meters. It was developed mainly for unmanned aerial vehicles. The effective range of the FT-5 is 2-5 kilometers when launched from a UAV and 3-35 kilometers when launched from a J-10A.

China has also developed the LT-3 GPS+ terminal laser-guided air-to-ground missile for the J-10A, which is very similar in structure to the U.S. Army’s JDAM+ laser-guided bomb.

These imitations provide evidence that the Chinese military has been tracking U.S. technology, viewing the United States as both a presumed enemy and a competitor in the arms export market. Of course China’s imitations are not limited to U.S. military equipment, but it is certainly learning from U.S. technology as well as military combat doctrines.

China is now paying close attention to the development of anti-GPS-jamming multiple-guidance weapons. Its Sekong Company has developed a 570-kilogram-class guided bomb based on the Russian Krasnopole laser-guided projectile’s seeker technology. China plans to promote this guided bomb along with the J-10A. A designer says that this bomb has a circular error probability of 3.1 meters and an air-release altitude of 500-10,000 meters.

It is not clear whether the LT-3 has ever been test-fired, as China did not show video footage of this guided bomb under test.

As for anti-ship weapons, Chinese promoters of the J-10A claim that the fighter can carry 75-kilometer-range new-generation C-705 anti-ship missiles or C-802A anti-ship missiles with a range close to 250 kilometers. The C-705 was also on exhibit for the first time. The C-705 is a modified version of the C-704, with a turbojet engine and two flight fins. The weight of its warhead is 110 kilograms and it has a minimum flight altitude of 12 meters.

The J-10A fighter has 11 hardpoints, two of which are of compound structure, making the total number of hardpoints 13.

The PLA Navy seems to be assessing the possibility of acquiring J-10As for its combat ships. A Chinese source said that the navy liked its price and its aerial refuelling capability. This source also disclosed that the J-10A’s combat radius is 800 kilometers. In this regard, the technological standard of the materials used on the J-10A can be judged far inferior to those of the same-generation fighters of the United States and Europe.

The J-10A is already fitted with an arresting hook imported from Russia for shipboard landing drills. However, the same source said no decision had as yet been made as to whether the PLA Navy will employ the J-10A as a ship-borne combat aircraft.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

China to export new HQ-9 surface to air missile


HONG KONG (UPI) -- China has put its HQ-9 surface-to-air missile on the export market under the name FD-2000. Brochures advertising China's latest missile appeared at the most recent African Ground Force Equipment Exhibition in Cape Town, South Africa, and also at the International Defense Exhibition in Karachi, Pakistan, last November.

The China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp. is the exporter of the long-range SAM. The name FD-2000 was first revealed by the Kanwa Information Center in 1998 as the export name of the HQ-10; more than 10 years later, China has finally introduced this missile system to the international market.

The People's Liberation Army Air Force has already deployed the HQ-9 at its bases in Xi'an and Lanzhou.

The HQ-9/FD-2000 unveiled at those exhibitions included its guidance radar. A model of this phased array guidance radar was put on display at the PLA equipment exhibition in Hong Kong last summer.

The four-celled HQ-9 launcher is very similar to that of the Russian S-300 SAM. The Chinese introductory brochure said the missile's range for aircraft targets is 7 to 125 kilometers, much lower than the 150-kilometer range of the Russian S-300 PMU1. This is the main reason China continues to import Russia's S-300 PMU2, which has a range of 200 kilometers. The HQ-9/FD-2000's firing altitude is 25 meters to 27 kilometers.

The HQ-9's range for missile targets, or air-to-ground missiles, is 7 to 50 kilometers, with a firing altitude of 1 to 18 kilometers. Its range for cruise missiles is 7 to 15 kilometers, at a firing altitude of 25 meters. The range for ballistic missiles is 7 to 25 kilometers at a firing altitude of 2 to 15 kilometers.

The HQ-9's guidance system is composed of inertia plus uplink and active radar terminal guidance systems. The manufacturer said that its response time is 15 seconds, and it is capable of dealing with 48 targets simultaneously.

The brigade-level combat system is composed of one command vehicle, six control vehicles, six track-radar vehicles, six search-radar vehicles, 48 missile-launch vehicles and 192 rounds of missiles. In addition, there is one positioning vehicle, one communications vehicle, one power supply vehicle and one support vehicle.

The composition of the combat system indicates that one HQ-9 battalion is equipped with eight missile-launch vehicles, which is consistent with what satellite photos of the system have shown.

One industry source said that China has also developed a new version of the HQ-9/FD-2000 for naval ships, which can be installed on the export versions of combat ships. However, the source did not disclose the firing rate of the HQ-9.

A careful comparison of the Chinese FT-2000 anti-radiation missile and the FD-2000 launch system reveals that the transport vehicles of the two missile systems are quite different in exterior structures. Nonetheless, both have 8X8 wheels, and their launch tubes both have 11 reinforcing bands. The FT-2000 has a maximum range of 12 to 100 kilometers, a firing altitude of 3 to 20 kilometers, a missile length of 6.8 meters and a diameter of 466 millimeters.

These figures indicate that the FT-2000 and FD-2000 use different types of missiles. At present, only Pakistan is believed to have expressed an interest in purchasing the FT-2000. But according to a source from Islamabad, even Pakistan is not considering importing the missile system at this stage.

The FD-2000 may be able to compete with the Russian S-300 PMU SAM, which has only a 90-kilometer range, on the international market because of the lower cost of the China-made missile.

But the effective ranges alone show that a substantial technological gap must be overcome before the HQ-9 can replace the S-300 PMU2. Nonetheless, the Chinese designers said that in terms of the technological standard of its computer design and display and control systems, the HQ-9 is superior to the Russian S-300 PMU1.

Given the fact that the HQ-9 has already been approved for export sales, there is a possibility that China has upgraded the missile system on the foundation of the original, bringing it closer to the standard of its Russian competitor.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Chinese Navy Requires Supercruising Fighter

A supercruising combat aircraft is a high priority of the Chinese navy, the country’s top admiral says in a revealing official interview that gives strong clues of perceived shortcomings and future directions for the maritime force.

Adm. Wu Shengli also says China must step up work on precision missiles that can overcome enemy defenses, and the nation should move faster in developing large combat surface ships—probably meaning the aircraft carrier program that looks increasingly imminent (AW&ST Jan. 5, p. 22).

Wu’s demand for supercruise—supersonic flight without afterburner—hints that such performance will be available from the next Chinese fighter, sometimes called the J-XX.

“One possibility is that the J-XX is being designed for supercruise and that Wu is trying to build support for a naval version of the aircraft,” says Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

The design of the J-XX is unknown. It could be a new aircraft or quite possibly a development of the J-10, a fighter now entering service.

The J-10’s configuration is similar to that of the Eurofighter Typhoon, which the manufacturer says can supercruise at Mach 1.5, although it is likely to be somewhat slower with a useful external load.

For the Chinese navy, one advantage of supercruising would be the ability to cover a large defensive area in less time—quite useful if the imagined target is a U.S. carrier group at long range.

Importantly, Wu lists a supercruising fighter among a series of technological demands that all look quite achievable for the Chinese navy over the next decade or so, suggesting that he does not regard such flight performance as a pie in the sky.

“Sophisticated equipment is the key material basis for winning a regional naval war,” says the admiral, evidently referring to the possibility of a confrontation in the Taiwan Strait. “We must accelerate and promote steps to work on key weapons.

“We must develop new-generation weapons such as large surface combat ships, stealthy long-endurance submarines, supercruising combat aircraft, precision long-range missiles that can penetrate defenses, as well as deep-diving, fast and intelligent torpedoes, and electronic combat equipment offering compatibility and commonality.”