Saturday, April 28, 2012

Some recent news on China-Thailand military cooperation

Thailand and China have agreed to jointly develop multiple rocket launchers with a guidance system as part of a move to strengthen military ties. (MRLS is a medium tech weapon, doesn't China already posses such system ? Why spending more money on it ?)

The two sides reached the agreement during a visit to China by the Thai military top brass in what was described by Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat as a call by "the whole family" to China which is "our close relative".

It is the first time in 15 years that a defence minister has led all key military leaders ranging from the defence permanent secretary, supreme commander and armed forces chiefs to meet Chinese senior military officers, led by National Defence Minister Gen Liang Guanglie.

Under the new agreement, the Thai Defence Technology Institute will work with China to develop new multiple rocket launchers called "DTI-1G [Guided]" which will be more accurate and have a greater range than existing systems, said ACM Sukumpol after the meeting.

Multiple rocket launchers are known for their devastating capabilities and ability to deliver a large amount of ordinance simultaneously, but are not recognised for precision because they are not usually equipped with a guidance system.

In an earlier joint deal, Thailand and China developed the DTI-1 system, which had a range of between 60 and 180km, but it lacked accuracy. (If the CEP is within 1% of the range, the accuracy is good)

The new DTI-1G project will last three years and will be funded under a 1.5-billion-baht budget, ACM Sukumpol said.

Gen Liang also told the delegation that if Thailand wants to buy weapons from China, it will be willing to sell them at "friendly prices", ACM Sukumpol quoted Gen Liang as saying."The price of Chinese weaponry has increased greatly recently. Arms are not as cheap as before so we will have to consider this carefully," ACM Sukumpol said.

As well as technological cooperation, the Thai and Chinese defence ministries have also agreed to hold a joint military exercise involving their air forces for the first time.

"We will need to discuss more details of this because Thailand and China have different military doctrines in the aviation area," ACM Sukumpol said.

So far the two countries have held joint military drills involving the army's special warfare units and the navy's marine corps.

In another demonstration of closer military ties, 130 officers from the Royal Thai Navy Corps will participate in a joint exercise to be held in Guangdong in southern China between May 9 and 29.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Zambian Air Force buys more K-8 trainers from China

K-8 Karakorum has been an export success for Chinese arm industry.

The Zambian Air Force has officially taken delivery of another eight K-8P jet trainers from the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC), bringing the number in service to 15.

The aircraft were delivered to Mumbwa air base in Zambia on March 21 and officially accepted during a ceremony there last Thursday, according to Zambian media. Zambian Air Force (ZAF) commander Lieutenant General Eric Chimese said that the jets will enhance the military wing’s ability to patrol the country and safeguard its airspace.

“Increased mining and economic activities have put pressure on us to monitor who is flying in and out of the country,” he said. “In order for us to remain relevant as an air force, the significance of keeping our aircraft in a state of readiness cannot be overemphasized. As professionals, it is our duty to ensure that aircraft is maintained and ready for use whenever required.”

Defence Minister Geoffrey Mwamba said during handover that the government was committed to ensuring that peace continued to prevail in Zambia, the Times of Zambia reports. “In accepting the new aircraft, I wish to pledge my government’s commitment to keep the machines in optimum condition by regularly providing resources for spares. This is in an effort to improve standards in the defence forces in order to make them viable and sustainable. I urge you to make maximum use of the equipment and take care of it,” Mwamba said.

“For the lifespan of the aircraft to be guarantee, spares for maintenance need to be provided as and when required. We call upon CATIC to render due and timely support in this regard,” he added.

CATIC vice-president Liu Jianhai said his company had provided Zambia with different aircraft and other services since 1979 and was happy that the good relations between Zambia and China had continued.

In 1999 Zambia received eight K-8s in kit form. “Last year in November, we witnessed the handover of a fleet of upgraded old K-8P aircraft by CATIC. This is in addition to other machines that the government is currently in the process of sourcing from CATIC, such as helicopters,” Mwamba said. “All this underscores the wonderful relations we share.”

According to the Jane’s information group, Zambia’s air force is hampered by a lack of spares and a shortage of flying hours. Although it has sufficient capacity to transport troops and cargo, its combat capability is very limited. Transport capacity was boosted by the delivery of five Y-12 and two MA60 aircraft from China in 2006.

Indeed, China has a close relationship with Zambia, especially after signing a military cooperation protocol in 1998 regarding training of the Zambian Army. The Chinese and Zambian defence ministers met in Beijing in July 2005, agreeing to continue military co-operation.

“It must be borne in mind however that aviation equipment is by nature costly and given our delicate economic situation, re-equipping ZAF to stay abreast with technological advancements in the aviation industry will not be done overnight,” said Chimese.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Argentina gets Chinese license for production of Z-11 light helicopter

A good deal of arm export for China.

Officials from Fabrica Argentina de Aviones (FAdeA) say they hope to fly their first locally assembled Z-11 light helicopter at the end of this year.

The plans follow a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed with Chinese helicopter company Avicopter and its parent CATIC in October 2011 to assemble the Z-11 light helicopter for both the Argentine and the Latin American market.

Emilio Maligno, business development manager for FAdeA told Shephard that studies had shown a need for a helicopter of Z-11 size in the region for a range of roles in the military and civil markets.

'In Argentina, the government wants to standardise the helicopters which serve the various services such as the gendarmerie, the army and the air force,' said Maligno.

'Helicopters are in high demand in this part of the world. Just take big events like the Dakar rally, helicopters are used in the filming, for moving people and equipment.'

The first Argentine-produced aircraft would be a prototype and demonstrator assembled with Chinese components, but later aircraft would be likely to feature a greater level of Argentine content as locally produced components and equipment come on stream.

'We have some experience in design and customisation, our aim is to produce a helicopter more suited to our Argentine and South American customers.'

Maligno says he hopes to be able to offer customers a choice of three engines, one from China, one from Honeywell, the LTS101 and Turbomeca's Arriel engine. He also hopes to be able to offer new avionics fits to meet customer requirements.

FAdeA says the experience from the assembly and work on the Z-11 could also pave the way for a wholly-indigenous helicopter programme, but there were no plans for the assembly of other Chinese helicopter types.

For the Argentina armed forces, local production would mean that they could have a reliable source of parts and support for the aircraft. Currently each of the armed services operates helicopter types from many different OEMs including Bell, Eurocopter and Russian Helicopters.

The Argentine Army evaluated the Z-11 when it was searching for a new light helicopter back in 2006, but the results of the evaluation are not clear.

The signature of the MoU has caused some consternation at Eurocopter as the Z-11s introduction into the South American may have broken a previously undisclosed agreement made between Eurocopter and Avicopter in early 2011 about the sale of licence-built Eurocopter helicopters by Avicopter outside China.

The Z-11 is not a licence-built Eurocopter aircraft but is virtually identical to the AS350 Ecureuil and Eurocopter is understood to be concerned about protection from liabilities because the designs are so similar.

'The two aircraft look very similar,' said Maligno.

'For us this is not about producing a cheaper aircraft, but a different product that is more customised for the Latin American and Argentine market.'

Currently FAdeA working on several fixed-wing aircraft programmes including the IA-63 Pampa jet trainer and the PA-25 Puelche light aircraft.

Meanwhile, it is understood that Bolivia has ordered six Avicopter H425 helicopters. The H425, also known as the Z-9 in China, is a licence-built version of the Eurocopter Dauphin. The six aircraft will be first helicopters to fly with the Bolivian Army and first Chinese military helicopters to be delivered to a South American customer.