Saturday, October 24, 2009

China and Russia to reach a deal on Kalashnikov rifle copyright

Klimovsk: After mercilessly ripping off the design of every Russian defence product that they have laid their hands on, and even producing and exporting then without so much as a thank you, the Chinese may finally accord copyright protection to one product–the ubiquitous Kalashnikov rifle. The protection may come too late in the day for it to be if any use to the Russians and the Kalashnikov brand name though.

Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport said Thursday it was working to reach an agreement with China on copyright protection of Kalashnikov assault rifles.

"We have received China's national patent for Kalashnikov products. The documents have been handed to the Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation to prepare and conclude an intergovernmental agreement in the field," Anatoly Isaikin, the head of Rosoboronexport told journalists.

Isaikin said he expected the process of reaching a deal with China to be lengthy, but hoped

it would be concluded soon.

In this respect he noted the huge number of unlicensed Kalashnikov rifles produced all over the world. "There are about 100 million Kalashnikov assault rifles worldwide, of which half are counterfeit, i.e. produced without licenses, patents and intergovernmental agreements," he said.

Isaikin said over 15 countries, including Bulgaria, Romania, Egypt and China, produce the rifles either on expired licenses or without them. "Even America produces the assault rifles, even though the country has never received a license for their manufacture," he said.

According to Isaikin, there were at least 30 organizations illegally producing and selling the weapons.

Russia has every reason to push for copyright protection of this classic weapon for just this September an arbitration court in the country accepted a bankruptcy suit against the factory which produces the famed assault rifles.

A court in the Urals republic of Udmurtia said on its website that the suit had been filed by a previously unknown company named Gremikha. It did not specify the connection between the plaintiff and Izhmash, the owner of the Kalashnikov plant.

The court said a hearing on the suit would be held on 7 October.

Though bankruptcy would help Izhmash deal with its debt burden, observers warned that a new wave of unemployment would sweep the region.

The Izhmash-owned Molot factory, which produces the legendary assault rifles, has already frozen operations due to a lack of orders from the state, Russian media reported.

The best-known Kalashnikov rifle is the 1947 model known as the AK-47, which is the most widely produced used assault rifle in the world, and is used by both regular armies and militant groups.

The creator of the AK-47, Mikhail Kalashnikov, is 89 years old and lives in Izhevsk.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

China's Unmanned Aircraft (UAV) Development

Andrei Chang, a Chinese military analyst with the Kanwa Information Centre in Toronto emphasised, it still is puzzling for what reason “the plethora of UAV models on display at Zhuhai do not go into production.” China is having difficulty mastering the technical complexity of operating UAVs in real time, he recently told Defence News. Chang suggests that many of the companies and institutions do not have an actual prototype and are simply looking for a foreign investor for their concept.

In an interview in early 2007 published by, Tu Jida, chief designer of the Aviation Industries of China (AVIC), said that UCAVs are still at an early development stage in China and current efforts may lead to a successful aircraft system in approximately ten years. He further emphasised that for any such effort, China will be on its own and will have to “rely on its own strength and self-reliance.” The interview also left the impression that China is still working on the development of more secure and resistant control and communication links for the operation of UAVs to prevent enemies from interfering with the control of UAVs and the transmission of reconnaissance information.

Although the extension of China’s military satellite network allows the use of HALE UAVs over long ranges and in operations abroad, China is fully aware of dangers and the importance of satellite communications in modern UAVs. “Without military satellites, the commanders sitting in the United States could not operate their Predator UAVs, which are thousands of miles away on the other side of the globe,” Prof. Chen Hong of the Chinese Air Force's Command College correctly observed. Further statements published by Xinhua (see acknowledge that China’s push in all fields of defence technology proves that the country is prepared to show strength in the air as well as in space and will make sure its networks will be working when their antagonists’ resources are down.

Major systems and concepts

Apart from the “Harpy” UAV sold to China by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in 1994, China has indigenously developed and manufactured a number of unmanned systems during the past 30 to 40 years, often based on western – primarily US-built – UAV and UCAV concepts. A row of transformations of formerly manned aircraft, such as the Ba-5 (based on the J-5, a MiG-17 copy) and the Jian-7 (based on the MiG-21), for use as target drones, as well as the development of smaller target drones such as the Ba-2, Ba-9 (many more types have been produced), provided China with enough experience to develop remotely controlled and later pre-programmed and autonomously flying systems.

China also has a number of man-portable and -launchable mini-UAVs (such as the ASN-15), which are generally propeller-driven models for short-range tactical reconnaissance of ground troops. The following list of systems focuses on larger reconnaissance and combat concepts and – not least due to the lack of reliable information – does not claim to be complete (for instance, you may miss the formerly important ASN-104/105 and ChangKong-1 or a newer concept called “Combat Eagle”, which strongly recalls the X-45 and nEUROn UCAVs). However, it offers a condensed overview on past, present and future Chinese UAV and UCAV concepts, as well as on the often-foreign technological sources.

Reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

• WuZhen-5 (also ChangHong-1)
The WZ-5, in particular, which has been developed on the basis of the U.S. AQM-34N Firebee, will have provided China with the required technical background to take the next step in UAV technology development. After a number of these jet-powered reconnaissance UAVs had been shot down by the PLA in the 1960s, and at least one could be recovered for reverse-engineering, the Beijing Institute of Aeronautics (BIA; now Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics, BUAA) began the development of a reconnaissance UAV based on the AQM-34N. The concept, consisting of the airframe, the optical camera sensor-suite, the turbojet engine and the ground station, resulted in two prototypes completed by 1972 and two in 1976. After achieving design certification in 1978, nine such systems were fielded by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) as of 1981.

After having been successfully used for reconnaissance missions in the 1980s, the BUAA is believed to have developed an improved version, designated WZ-5A, which provided greater accuracy due to a GPS and inertial navigation system. The WZ-5 was air-launched at altitudes between 4,000 and 5,000 metres and would then climb to its operational altitude of 17,500 metres, where it may fly at up to 800km/h. It was originally launched by a modified Tu-4 Bull bomber, and later by the Y-8E (An-12 Cub copy) turboprop transport aircraft. Due to its lack of a real-time data link, its endurance of merely 3 hours and its limitation to day-time optical reconnaissance, the system can no longer keep up anymore with modern solutions. Without a real-time link and control, it must stay on its pre-programmed flight path, disregarding changing tactical situations or enemy air-defences.

• Xianglong (“Sour Dragon”, Chengdu)
As one of the more recent concepts, the “Xianglong” of the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) was first unveiled at the 2006 Zhuhai air show. Its dimensions, jet engine and intake arrangement and wing shape very much recall the US RQ-4 Global Hawk and suggest that this UAV will also be used for high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) reconnaissance missions. In fact, it is reported to fly at altitudes of up to 18,000 metres (approx. 59,000 ft), which is slightly less than the ceiling of the Global Hawk. According to unnamed sources, the aircraft already completed high-speed taxiing tests in late 2008 and was scheduled to have its maiden flight in early 2009.

The intake and engine, located on top of the fuselage at the rear between the V-shaped tail wings, are much smaller than those of the Global Hawk. However, according to Chinese media reports, it is believed to fly slightly faster than the RQ-4, reaching speeds of about 750km/h and ranges up to 7.000 kilometres. With a reported take-off weight of 7,500kg and a mission payload of 650kg, it is lighter than the RQ-4 and can carry less weight (RQ-4B max. weight: 14.640kg; payload: 1.360kg). Due to its comparably limited range, it is supposed to exclusively operate in the Asia and Pacific region.

• WuZhen-2000 (also WZ-9, Guizhou Aviation Industry Group)
Just as the Xianglong, the WZ-2000’s design seems to have been taken from the U.S. Global Hawk, with V-shaped tail wings and a single WS-11 turbofan on top of the rear fuselage. However, the WZ-2000 is smaller (length 7.5m, wingspan 9.8m) and has slightly aft swept wings, as well as obvious radar cross-section reduction features, including a flat bottom surface. Being an older – but nevertheless stealthy – reconnaissance UAV concept (1999) than the Xianglong, the WZ-2000 is reported to having accomplished its maiden flight in December 2003 and an onboard remote sensing system test in August 2004.

Although the aircraft has smaller dimensions, it is intended to fly at a service ceiling of 18,000 metres with a reported maximum speed of 800km/h for a total endurance of only 3 hours. The 80 kg mission payload reportedly contains a thermal imaging camera and a synthetic aperture radar. Reconnaissance data is transmitted via a satellite communications antenna in the nose bulge.

• ASN-206 / ASN-207 (Xi'an ASN Technology Group Company)
The ASN-206 is one of the earlier advanced tactical UAV programmes and one of the few that has been successfully introduced into service with the PLA. It is a lightweight, short-range, tactical multi-purpose UAV developed by Xi'an ASN Technology Group Company in 1994 and produced in series starting in 1996. According to unconfirmed sources, the Israeli company Tadiran Spectralink Ltd. has been involved in the development process. It carries various mission payloads and can, therefore, be used in a multitude of operations including day/night aerial reconnaissance, electronic warfare and countermeasures (EW/ECM), battlefield surveillance, border patrols and nuclear radiation sampling.

Powered by a HS-700 piston engine, the ASN-206 is a twin-tail braced UAV which is launched with the help of an accessory rocket from a 6x6 truck and is operated by a digital flight control and management system. The aircraft marks an important step in China’s UAV development as it provides real-time reconnaissance information, while older UAV models had to be recovered in order to access the collected data.

The ASN-207, of which four systems headed the UAV formation at the National Day Parade in early October, is an improved version of the ASN-206. It significantly surpasses the AN-206’s capabilities, reportedly providing double the endurance time and mission payload with a maximum range of 600km. It can easily be distinguished due to its mushroom-shape antenna mounted at the front of the aircraft, which receives flight control commands from the ground station.

Attack Drones / Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAV)

• Harpy (IAI)
The Harpy, built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), was another technology source for China’s own development efforts. The procurement of an unknown number of these attack UAVs in 1994 created quite a stir in U.S.-Israeli diplomatic relations, leading to a crisis of confidence between the two countries. This only happened in 2004 when the Chinese Harpy’s were sent back to Israel for an upgrade and after it was discovered that the PLA used Harpies during a military exercise. The Bush administration subsequently urged Israel to halt all arms-transfers to China.

The Harpy (which since has been further developed: see is not a typical UAV but, rather, a weapons system called “loitering munition”. The propeller-driven aircraft is launched from a ground vehicle or surface warship and can loiter for some time above the mission area to locate and identify a suitable high-value target. Its sensor collects valuable information until the Harpy attacks and destroys its target by crashing into it and detonating its 32 kg (70 lb) high-explosive warhead. It was specifically developed to detect, track and destroy radar emitters, such as enemy radar and SAM emplacements, in all weather conditions during day or night.

• Yi-long (Chengdu)
Another design by the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation appears to be a copy of the U.S. MQ-1 Predator, yet without inverted but, rather, upright V-shaped tail wings. The aircraft is driven by a small tail propeller. It carries a small pivotable sensor suit almost beneath the centre of the slender fuselage. The model displayed at the 2008 Zhuhai air show did not feature pylons to carry weapons, however, design concepts of this aircraft were presented with one pylon on each wing, arranged in the same fashion as on the Predator, to carry light missiles.

• CH-3 (China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.)
The CH-3 is a medium-range long-endurance (MALE) UCAV model presented at the 2008 Zhuhai show which, due to its complexity, still appears to be far from becoming a reality. The aircraft has a canard airframe design with the tailplane ahead of the main wing. Still propeller-driven, the aircraft carries a large sensor suite underneath the fuselage at the level of the main wings’ root. According to the model, the aircraft is designed to carry two air-to-ground missiles, such as the AR-1 air-surface missile.

• Anjian (“Dark Sword”, Shenyang)
The “Dark Sword” is an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) concept which was displayed as a model at the 2006 Zhuhai air show. It is obviously designed for high manoeuvrability at supersonic speeds, having a flat, triangular shape with an additional large wing area and swing canards, hinting at China’s J-10 multi-role combat aircraft (which itself strongly resembles jets such as the Eurofighter, Rafale and Gripen). Its large intake underneath the fuselage implies high speed, agility and angle-of-attack, further suggesting that the aircraft will be powered by a turbofan.

At the Zhuhai air show, a staff member called the aircraft the “future of Chinese unmanned combat aviation”, emphasising its projected ability to evade enemy radar and to engage in air-to-air combat.

Monday, October 12, 2009

China Shows U.S. Delegation Next Spacecraft, TianGong

The U.S. and China are beginning to open lines of communications that could lead to greater cooperation in human spaceflight. This significant move comes as the Obama administration ponders a way forward in space that may include more willingness to work with China in areas that previously were off limits.

The two space-faring nations have a lot to offer each other. The U.S. program is in a budget-induced crisis, without the cash it needs to continue on its current path to build a pair of rockets to take astronauts back to the Moon and beyond. China’s space endeavors appear to have plenty of money, but they lack the technology and experience needed to catch up quickly on their own.

The new administration in Washington seems willing to play a more collegial role in the world, and the leadership cadre in China seems willing to play along. Hindering that is a legacy of mistrust that may have eased just a little last week, at least in the area of human spaceflight cooperation.

As a former deputy NASA administrator and the head of China’s Manned Space Engineering Office held back-channel talks, human spaceflight officials here offered an unprecedented opportunity to examine the Tiangong-1 docking target and the next in its series of Shenzhou human spacecraft, as well as previously off-limits space facilities.

And five of the six Chinese astronauts who have flown in space quizzed two former space shuttle commanders about aspects of their common profession, ranging from rendezvous and docking techniques to the best way to manage astronaut schedules.

“Because of a lack of contact in previous times, we haven’t decided how to cooperate,” replied Wang Wenbao, director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, when asked if China would be willing to join the International Space Station partnership (ISS). “If we can open a channel so we can all sit together, then we can decide what we can do and what America can do.”

“The important thing to know is that we had a meeting,” says Fred Gregory, a three-time shuttle astronaut and deputy NASA administrator from 2002-05.

Gregory and Tom Henricks, a veteran of four shuttle missions who is president of Aviation Week, spent several hours briefing Chinese astronauts, engineers and space-medicine experts about their spaceflight experiences during a visit to Beijing Space City arranged by the Space Foundation, a private U.S. group. Among those participating were Yang Liwei, China’s first astronaut; Zhai Zhigang, its first spacewalker; and three other Shenzhou spaceflight veterans.

Between them, Gregory and Henricks have been in space more than six times longer than all of their Chinese counterparts combined, and some of the scripted questions from the Chinese were quite basic. They included queries about what NASA would do if a crewmember became severely ill in space, and how astronauts recognize and handle space-adaptation syndrome, or space sickness. Others dealt with personnel issues, such as whether NASA astronauts are allowed to lend their names to advertising after they retire.

The questioning marked a stark contrast with the first encounters between NASA astronauts and Russian cosmonauts as their two human-spaceflight programs began to work together in the early 1990s. At that time, the Russian program had deep experience in human operations in space, but was strapped for cash.

During a tour of space facilities here on Sept. 22, the lack of experience in the Chinese program was offset by an apparent abundance of funding. Facilities at the compound in the northwestern suburbs of Beijing are gleaming, relatively new and elaborate. The Space Foundation delegation visited three of them: the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), the China Astronaut Research and Training Center and the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC).

In contrast to another U.S. visit last year, when Chinese authorities restricted a group organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies to a museum just inside the Beijing Space City gate (AW&ST May 5, 2008, p. 29), the Space Foundation group received a friendly official welcome at the astronaut training center and BACC inside the compound, and at the CAST facility in another compound nearby.

At CAST, photography was forbidden. But the U.S. visitors were given white smocks, caps and booties, and allowed into the class-100,000 clean-room high bay where the Shenzhou 8 orbital module and reentry capsule are being assembled alongside the Tiangong 1 orbital target and the Chang'e 2 robotic lunar orbiter.

Shenzhou 8 is identical to Shenzhou 7, which carried Zhai and two crewmates on the three-day spacewalk mission in September 2008, except that it has a small docking unit on its forward end and video cameras mounted around its circumference to guide final approach. The mechanical docking ring is not compatible with the Russian androgynous peripheral assembly system used on the ISS, officials say.

A combination of radar and laser ranging will guide the approaching Shenzhou to Tiangong 1 for China’s first exercise in proximity operations and docking. The 8.5-metric-ton target vehicle’s hull appears complete, with its docking ring in place at one end. But the propulsion/ service module at the other end is partially disassembled, with what appeared to be a large avionics bay pulled out and rotated 90 deg., connected to the rest of the spacecraft only by cables.

Set for launch in October 2010, Chang'e 2 is an external copy of its predecessor, which impacted the Moon on Mar. 1 at the end of what officials here say was a successful mission. Improvements include a better camera with a resolution of 5 meters (16.4 ft.) at the surface, they say.

Also on display at CAST were a large anechoic chamber outfitted by EADS Astrium known as the Compensated Compact Range, and a thermal vacuum chamber used for Shenzhou and spacesuit testing that has an internal diameter of 12 meters, and an internal height of 24 meters.

At the astronaut training center, Yang and Zhou guided visitors through a large simulator suite, where a full-scale Shenzhou mockup is mounted vertically next to the computer gear that generates its audiovisual input, and a reentry capsule simulator is mounted horizontally. They showed us a 10-meter-deep neutral-buoyancy lab built in 2007, with a Shenzhou airlock/orbital module underwater mockup displayed nearby. In a separate room, a harness-and-cable arrangement is used to train astronauts in a higher-fidelity airlock under simulated microgravity.

At BACC, Ma Yongping, the deputy director, briefed the U.S. visitors on the center’s operations. Later, Wang, the human spaceflight engineering director, and Zhou Jianping, the University of Southern California-educated chief designer of the China Manned Space Engineering Program, hosted a discussion and an elaborate banquet at a restaurant.

Also on the agenda for later in the week was a visit to the Jiquan Satellite Launch Center, where all of the Shenzhou missions originated. Foreigners are allowed to visit the site only rarely, according to Yang.

Gregory’s conversation with Yang, whose office manages human spaceflight for the central government and draws its funding through the military, marks a change for NASA. In the past, the U.S. agency has discussed space cooperation with the civilian China National Space Administration. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, also a former shuttle astronaut, plans a visit here before the end of the year to discuss space topics. President Barack Obama, who accepted an invitation from President Hu Jintao during the London G20 summit in April, is also scheduled to visit this year.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bolivia buys six K-8 jet trainers from China

LA PAZ: The Bolivian government has approved 57.8-million-dollar purchase of six planes made in Pakistan with Chinese technology for use in anti-drug operations, media here reported on Friday.

The deal was finalised on Wednesday in consultations with ministers and stipulates that the aircraft will provide a “contribution to the regional battle against narcotrafficking, ensuring requisite control of national air spaces and areas prone to and affected by this problem,” reported local independent media agency Fides.

The government has not explicitly confirmed the deal but “the president will announce it on October 10”, according to Defence Minister Walker San Miguel, who was cited by La Razon newspaper.

The K-8, or Karakorum, plane is a light fighter jet jointly developed by China and Pakistan in the early 1990s. It is used primarily as a training aircraft, but can also be used for airfield defence. Bolivia is also waiting for five US-made Huey helicopters to be delivered by Brazil. Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Thursday that the delivery was being delayed by the United States, which has yet to give the project a green light.