Saturday, September 6, 2014

China to Launch Recoverable Moon Orbiter Prototype

China's space program has set its sights on an ambitious feat of lunar exploration: robotically landing a probe on the moon and returning samples of the lunar surface back to Earth.

To accomplish that, the country plans to launch a lunar "test orbiter" by year's end with the intention of laying the foundation for China's Chang'e 5 lunar sample-return mission in 2017.

The experimental recoverable moon orbiter has arrived at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southern province of Sichuan for its planned launch. The mission represents China's first attempt at returning a lunar probe to Earth, as noted in an Aug. 10 statement by China's State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND).

 China is preparing for the launch of an experimental recoverable moon orbiter, said the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence on Sunday.

The orbiter arrived in Xichang via air in southwest China's Sichuan Province on Sunday and then transported to the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, according to a statement from the administration.

The launch will take place before the end of this year, it said.

The plan is for the orbiter to be launched into lunar orbit and return to Earth at an escape velocity of 11.2 km per second.

The orbiter is one of the test models for China's new lunar probe Chang'e-5, which will be tasked with landing on the moon, collecting samples and returning to Earth.

The launch is aimed at testing the technologies that are vital for the success of Chang'e-5, the statement said.

China launched the Chang'e-3 lunar probe with its moon rover, Yutu, in late 2013. Chang'e-3 successfully landed on the moon and Yutu operated well until its control mechanism failed in January.

As the backup probe of Chang'e-3, Chang'e-4 will be adapted to verify technologies for Chang'e-5.

The more sophisticated Chang'e-5 mission, including unmanned sampling and returning, requires technological breakthroughs in moon surface takeoff, sampling encapsulation, rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit, as well as high-speed Earth reentry.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Pakistan to induct Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles

According to a report in the most recent edition of the National Journal, Pakistan has recently unveiled drones that some believe are derived from Chinese drones.

“Already, Pakistan has remote-piloted aircraft,” the report notes. “Islamabad uses surveillance drones to provide the military with a real-time picture of its restive border areas or counter terrorism operations. Pakistan unveiled two new drones in November: Burraq, named after the winged horse from the heavens that transported Islamic prophets, and Shahpar.”

The National Journal report noted that Pakistan had claimed that both drones were domestically built and that neither would be armed. However, the report also points out, citing defense analysts, that the drones bear a close resemblance to the Chinese-made Rainbow CH-3. The Rainbow CH-3 is able to launch missiles.

Pakistan’s desire to acquire armed drones is no secret. It has urged the U.S. to sell it armed drones for years, which Washington has refused to do. The U.S. keeps a tight lock on the export of its armed drones. According to the National Journal report, only the United Kingdom has been sold U.S. armed drones although certain other close U.S. allies—may soon also fly American drones.

Israel also has armed drones but would be unlikely to export them to Pakistan given U.S. opposition and the fact that Islamabad is a Muslim country that has ties to some of Tel Aviv’s rivals in the Persian Gulf and wider Middle East.

Islamabad’s need for such drones is also urgent. Pakistan’s military would almost certainly use the drones to target inward-focused terrorists operating in Pakistan’s far western region. It has been widely reported that the United States has, at times at least, aided in this effort by using its own drones to eliminate targets at the behest of the Pakistani military.

Having its own armed drones would allow Pakistan to intensify this effort, especially given the strong reluctance on the military’s part to execute a larger counter terrorism operation in the tribal areas where most inward-focused terrorists are believed to be taking refuge. Furthermore, Pakistan could use drones in cross-border operations against Afghanistan where some of the Pakistani terrorists could conceivably find sanctuary in the future should they be driven out of the tribal areas by Pakistan’s military.

It’s also not at all unlikely that China would willingly sell Pakistan armed drones. As The Diplomat has previously noted, China is expected to be by far the fastest growing UAV producer over the next five years. Although most of these drones will be destined for the People’s Liberation Army and other domestic users, Beijing has a clear desire to also use its growing drone market to increase defense exports. In fact, as noted earlier this month, China has already sold Saudi Arabia drones.

Moreover, China’s relationship with Pakistan is far stronger than its ties to Saudi Arabia, or any other country in the Middle East. This is especially true when it comes to arms sales. Indeed, by some estimates, Pakistan purchased some 55 percent of China’s total defense exports between 2008 and 2012. These arm sales most certainly include advanced aircraft. Indeed, one of the largest defense projects between Pakistan and China is their joint development of the JF-17 Thunder fighter jet, which Islamabad hopes to begin exporting as early as this year.

Therefore, although the report remains unconfirmed at this point, it would be surprising if China didn’t sell Pakistan armed drones in the coming years.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Pakistan plans to acquire 6 Type 041 SSK from China

Type 041 SSK is China's first AIP powered submarine, with performance comparable to the German Type 212 submarine.
This submarine is very competitive on the market, less than a half of the German submarine.
More exports likely.

Pakistan is planning to purchase six conventional submarines from China as a way to counter the influence of expanding Indian maritime power, the Military-Industrial Courier, a Russian-language website focused on global defense issues reported on April 3.

Rana Tanveer Hussain, Pakistan's minister of defense production, is currently visiting Beijing to discuss the purchase of submarines from China, according to information released by the Pakistani government. Reports have circulated that Islamabad will sign a contract with Beijing before the end of the year to introduce six Type 041 Yuan-class diesel-electric submarines, to be constructed at either the Wuhan or Jiangnan shipyard.

However, some experts say that the submarines will be S20s, the export version of the Type 041. The only difference between the Type 041 and the S20 is that the latter does not have the former's air-independent propulsion system. If Pakistan chooses to order the air-independent propulsion system separately from China, it can still be easily integrated into the submarine due to the modular design of the S20.

Though China has not specified the types of weapon systems with which the S20 can be equipped, the Global Times published under the auspices of the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily stated that a variety of sensors and weapons can also be easily incorporated on request. The Chinese delegation also discussed with Hussain the establishment of a shipyard in Pakistan to be run jointly by the two nations. Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works may be chosen by Beijing to design submarines due to its previous experience in reproducing Chinese vessels.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A new version of Yuan class SSK ?

China's sub building is picking up the pace.

New Chinese-sourced imagery shows that the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) continues to modify its Type 041 Yuan class conventional submarine and that it is making progress towards a new large destroyer or cruiser.

On 10 and 11 December 2013 the first images of a new variant of the Type 041 - also sometimes referred to as the Type 039A, Type 039C or Type 039X - appeared on Chinese military web forums. It had just been launched by the Wuhan Shipyard of the China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), the major manufacturer of China's non-nuclear powered submarines. Only seen partially in these first images, a new image seen on 6 April shows the new Type 041 variant has a raked sail that is similar to recent German SSK designs.

This new sail design may incorporate an additional high-frequency sonar at the base of the sail, as do some other submarines with similar designs. This Type 041 may also be slightly longer than previous variants.

Uncorroborated Chinese sources have suggested that the new variant displaces about 3,500 tons compared to about 3,000 tons for earlier Type 041s. This could indicate that the new variant has more weapons - IHS Jane's Fighting Ships states that the existing variants are armed with YJ-2 (YJ-82) anti-ship missiles and a combination of Yu-4 (SAET-50) passive homing and Yu-3 (SET-65E) active/passive homing torpedoes. Yu-6 wake-homing torpedoes may also be carried.

The basic export version, marketed as the S20 and unveiled in February 2013, displaces about 2,300 tons.

Since 2004 12 Type 041 submarines are believed to have been launched, while the US Department of Defense estimated in its May 2013 annual report on China's military to Congress that production could reach 20 ships.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

J-15 Flying Shark training on China's Carrier Liaoning

The Shenyang J-15 (Chinese: 歼-15), also known as Flying Shark (Chinese: 飞鲨, Fēishā), is a carrier-based fighter aircraft in development by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation and the 601 Institute for the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy's aircraft carriers. This aircraft is based on the Russian-designed Sukhoi Su-33 and is fitted with domestically produced radars, engines, and weapons. An unfinished Su-33 prototype, the T-10K-3, was acquired from Ukraine sometime in 2001 and is said to have been studied extensively, with development on the J-15 beginning immediately afterward. While the J-15 appears to be structurally based on the Su-33, the indigenous fighter features Chinese technologies as well as avionics from the J-11B program.

Its performance is estimated to be similar to American F/A-18 C/D Hornet

General characteristics of the aircraft:

Crew: 1-2
Length: 21.9 m (72 ft)
Wingspan: 14.7 m (48.25 ft)
Height: 5.9 m (19.5 ft)
Wing area: 62.04 m2 (667.80 ft2)
Empty weight: 17500 kg (38600 lb)
Loaded weight: 27000 kg (60000 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 33000 kg (72752 lb)
Powerplant: 2 × WS-10A afterburning turbofans
Dry thrust: 89.17 kN (20,050 lbf) each
Thrust with afterburner: 135 kN (33,000 lbf) each
Wingspan, wings folded: 7.4 m (24.25 ft)
Maximum speed: Mach 2.4[30]
Range: 3500 km(2050 mi)
Service ceiling: 20000 m (65700 ft)
Rate of climb: 325 m/s (64000 ft/min)
1 × 30 mm GSh-30-1 cannon with 150 rounds
Munitions on twelve external hardpoints, including:
8 × PL-12 or R-77, and 4 × PL-9 or R-73 air-to-air missiles
Various bombs and rockets
Anti ship and anti radiation missiles.
Electronic countermeasure (ECM) pods

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

China launches the first of two patrol boat for Nigeria

The China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Company launched the Nigerian Navy’s first of two P-18N offshore patrol vessels on Monday. Looks like China's ship building industry is growing, and gaining more customers.
Arms export to Africa can be profitable. This boat is based on Type 056 corvette, which has become a mature, successful design.
 The launch ceremony took place at Wuchang Shipyard in Wuhan, China, and was attended by numerous Nigerian dignitaries, including Nigeria’s First Lady, Patience Faka Jonathan. She said her husband Goodluck Jonathan’s administration is committed to recapitalising the Nigerian naval fleet to enable it to address various maritime security challenges, IHS Janes reports.
The vessel was assigned the pennant number F91 (the pennant number F90 is assigned to the NNS Thunder, an ex-US Coast Guard cutter). The offshore patrol vessel’s launched ceremony also marked the hull formation ceremony of the second vessel, F92.
 Only the first offshore patrol vessel (OPV) will be built entirely in China as between 50 and 70% of the second ship will be constructed in Nigeria in an effort to enhance local shipbuilding capability and provide technology transfer. Delivery of F91 is expected in the middle of this year and the second vessels is also expected to arrive sometime in 2014, and be completed either late this year or early 2015.
 China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Company (CSOC) has also signed a contract to upgrade the Nigerian Naval Shipyard in Port Harcourt so that it can build OPVs and maintain vessels up to 10 000 dwt. Upgrades to the dockyard include a new jetty, a new dry dock and other additions.
 Nigeria ordered the two Chinese OPVs in April 2012 and construction began that October. The vessels are based on the Type 056 corvette in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The vessels are 95 metres long, with a draft of 3.5 metres. They are powered by two MTU 20V 4000M diesel engines, giving a speed of 21 knots, and are armed with one 76 mm and two 30 mm guns (no missile fitted). Crew complement will be 70 sailors and endurance 20 days. They will be able to carry and support a helicopter off a rear deck.
 The Nigerian Navy announced that the vessels would mainly to be used for maritime surveillance, patrol and response tasks. Other roles of the vessels would be protection of offshore assets, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) patrol and surveillance, search and rescue and oil spill control.
 As the Nigerian Navy is growing, it needs bigger boats, not just patrol boats, but also frigates and destroyers.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

China's aircraft engine development

China has always been relatively backward in the field of aircraft engine, still relies on Russia to supply most engines.
But the leadership has decided to pour billions of dollars into engine development.
Simultaneously, China is developing many different classes of Turbofan, Turboprop, Turboshaft engines.
Below is a nice chart detailing the engine models, thrust, and applications.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

China's moon mission may lead to future economic benefits

 When Chang’e 3 — China’s first lunar rover — rolled from its lander this week, it made its country one of just three to ever drive a lander on the Moon. In celebration of the event, Chinese national news services broadcast some incredible live video of the rover (named Yutu, which means “Jade Rabbit”). However, the video does not seem to have been released to anyone but the Chinese media, and right now the internet has no adequate recording we can find. Two reports show the lander begin from two different angles, though both are low quality. Check out the videos below; fuzzy or not, they really are something.

Yutu rode to the Moon aboard China’s Chang’e 3 mission. The Chang’e series has been the standard-bearer for the Chinese space program for some time, and it will continue to be for at least two more missions. There are two more rovers planned, each with a different mission to research and survey. The ultimate goal is to land a Taikonaut (Chinese astronaut) on the Moon, and beyond that to set up a permanent lunar base. Their timeline for doing this isn’t so far removed from NASA’s musings about a mission to Mars. As the American space agency tries to drum up support for a mission to another planet, its Chinese counterpart could undercut them by focusing on a base much more likely to have economic benefits.

In fact, that’s a large part of China’s motivation to explore the Moon: the economic benefits. When the Apollo astronauts collected moon rocks for study, there was only the vaguest of ideas about the possible resources for exploitation. Now, this rover has an explicit mission to (among other things) survey the Moon for helium-3, a rare element that could be a clean, easily used fuel for nuclear fusion reactors. Only about 15 tons of the stuff is thought to exist on Earth, but estimates for the total compliment of the isotope on Luna range up to five million tons. A leader of the Chinese lunar program estimated that about 100 tons could provide for the world’s current energy needs for one year. Assuming we could extract 100% of that five million tons, that’s quite a bit of time to come up with the next stop-gap energy solution.

The Moon is also known to be home to rich deposits of titanium and other precious metals, and there’s no telling what other, unexpected wonders it might hold. Another lander on schedule for 2017 will attempt to collect and bring back rock and soil samples for analysis, and you can bet traces of precious or useful materials are first on their list of targets. China has said that it plans to spend the next couple of decades scouring our only satellite for helium-3 and anything else worthwhile, possibly securing an energy-independent future for China — that is, assuming fusion comes into its own and that the United States chooses to quietly accept Chinese dominance of the lunar oil fields. This is the stuff of which world wars and science fiction epics are made. Below is a video of the lander’s initial approach, in much higher quality than the footage above.

Yutu is equipped with a ground penetrating radar (GPR) that can probe several hundred meters into the Moon’s crust, and a spectrometer for basic sample analysis. That’s useless, of course, unless we find a more cost-effective way of getting material to and from the Moon. A space elevator would probably work best, but at present that’s almost as harebrained an idea as fusion itself. Perhaps the country’s population problems have made long-term problems more difficult to ignore, but the Chinese space agency appears to see the value of long-term investments and, if you’ll pardon the expression, moonshots.

Purely on its merits today, the Moon is anything but an investor’s dream. Still, an advantage based on the moon would be trivially easy to keep under a monopoly, and to exploit for extreme economic benefit.