Category Archives: China Air Force

A Chinese Stealth Challenge? Beginning of Stealth Arms Race

Several experts said the prototype's body appeared to borrow from the F-22 and other U.S. stealth aircraft, but they couldn't tell from the photographs how advanced it was in terms of avionics, composite materials or other key aspects of stealth technology.

I am little busy these days so please hold on a next post in series “Nuclear Power Dilemma” will be up soon. Meanwhile, read the following two pieces appeared in New Scientist and The Wall Street Journal, both making same excuses, and seems to be in highly nervous. China’s J-20, stealth aircraft, is it really stealth or just looked stealthy? One of my posts last year I referenced to one Chinese military source citing the revelation of stealth aircraft and aircraft carrier by China. Though the quoted time I put was around 10 years according to Chinese authorities, but this I don’t really think is applicable. From my opinion, China is still far away in stealth arms race, however, I really do hope that J-20 is in real a handy stealth aircraft and waiting anxiously for more on the issue. Anyway, have a read, I will soon update the blog with my recent post.

Has China’s new jet launched a stealth arms race?

New Scientist

China’s first flight test of its new high-tech J-20 stealth military jet on 11 January has drawn a lot of attention, particularly because it came during the visit of US defense secretary Robert Gates. What it means is another question, and the answers are complex. Military analysts had known China was developing a combat plane in the class of the US F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, but they had not expected it to make its first appearance in December, Aviation Week and Space Technology reported. Several high-speed ground tests, in which the craft’s front wheel rose off the ground, preceded the first flight.

China has released videos of the new jet on the ground, taking off, and landing at Chengdu. The New York Times quoted a Hong Kong analyst as saying the plane flew for 15 minutes over the airfield. With two distinctive angled tail fins like those of the F-22, it’s clearly intended to be stealthy. The Times also reports it is intended carry missiles and fly long distances when refueled in the air. The demonstration worries some analysts because it’s the first aircraft to challenge the performance of the F-22, the top of the US air force’s fleet. “We have become accustomed to a world where our air power is dominant,” Rand Corporation analyst Roger Cliff told Newsweek. “But that dominance is now in question.” Once the J-20 is deployed, in that scenario, US top guns would lose their high-performance stealth advantage and no longer rule the skies. o so fast, says Aviation Week. New, more powerful radars using active electronically scaled arrays can pick up fainter and fainter targets, and are fast catching up to stealth technology. “Anti-stealth will bring into question all stealth designs,” it says, hinting that the US may already have airborne radars able to spot stealth aircraft.

Moreover, perfecting stealth technology takes time. The US started its F-22 programme in the 1980s. To an experienced eye, the stealthy look of the Chinese jet “is just sort of cobbled together,” Teal group analyst Richard Aboulafia told The Wall Street Journal . He thinks China may be able to deploy the new aircraft in a decade, but by then the US should have better technology.

That sounds eerily familiar. We used to call it an arms race.

Actual Article

China’s J-20 Fighter: Stealthy or Just Stealthy-Looking?

The Wall Street Journal

When the First grainy images of China’s J-20 fighter appeared online, they seemed to confirm the fears of some China watchers: Beijing appeared to be on track to develop a “fifth generation” aircraft that featured the radar-eluding properties of advanced U.S. aircraft like the F-22 Raptor. But exactly how stealthy is the J-20? And does it mean that China can challenge the U.S. for control of the skies? In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst with the Teal Group, an aerospace and defense consulting firm, said China is still years away from perfecting stealth aircraft. “It’s certainly stealthy-looking,” Mr. Aboulafia said. It looks like it’s got some of the faceting and some of the shaping that characterizes the front of the F-22, for example. “But then you look the details and you realize this thing is just sort of cobbled together,” he added. Take, for instance, the canards: forewings close to the nose of the aircraft that provide maneuverability. According to Mr. Aboulafia, “There’s no better way of guaranteeing a radar reflection and compromise of stealth” than adding canards to the aircraft. The same goes for the engine nozzles, which Mr. Aboulafia said were clearly not designed to be stealthy, as well the large overall size of the aircraft. Still, appearance of the J-20 prototype was a dramatic prelude to Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington this week. But Mr. Aboulafia said that China still lacks the command-and-control networks, aerial refueling capabilities and other systems that allow the U.S. to project air power around the globe. What China does seem to be on track to produce, Mr. Aboulafia said, were aircraft that may eventually be on par with fighters like the F-22, which was designed by the U.S. in the 1980s. “It’s quite possible that in 10 years they have a functioning equivalent of the F-22, but by then, the West will have moved on to something far more impressive,” he said.

Actual Article

China’s New Stealth Race

And off-course don’t forget to hit a review of China’s New Stealth Race, first published after appearance of J-20 on TV on Wall Street Journal U.S. officials played down Chinese advances on the plane, which American intelligence agencies believe will likely be operational around 2018. “We are aware that the Chinese have recently been conducting taxi tests and there are photos of it,” said Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan. “We know they are working on a fifth-generation fighter but progress appears to be uneven.” China has made rapid progress in developing a capability to produce advanced weapons, also including unmanned aerial vehicles, after decades of importing and reverse engineering Russian arms. The photographs throw a fresh spotlight on the sensitive issue of China’s military modernization just as Washington and Beijing try to improve relations following a series of public disputes in 2010. The Chinese prototype looks like it has “the potential to be a competitor with the F-22 and to be decisively superior to the F-35,” said Mr. Fisher. The J-20 has two engines, like the F-22, and is about the same size, while the F-35 is smaller and has only one engine. China’s stealth-fighter program has implications also for Japan, which is considering buying F-35s, and for India, which last month firmed up a deal with Russia to jointly develop and manufacture a stealth fighter.

Wrap Up

The J-20 currently has two prototypes for test flight. One use the Russian AL-31 engines, and the other use the Chinese WS-10G engines, which are newer and provide more thrust. The Chinese counterpart of the X-37B, named “Shenlong”, did make the maiden flight in 2010. The program is very secretive and rarely known to the outside world. The entire J-20 project were created to defeat the F-22, and chances are, if a common analyst can think of a problem, real aerospace engineers would have thought of it too, and then found a solution. America had a head start, with post war German technology and brainpower transfer taking a large portion of the credit, however head start will only give you the lead for a while, its the smarter ones that’ll lead int he long run. As Professor Keith Hayward, Head of Research, Royal Aeronautical Society, notes in an upcoming analysis of the Chinese aerospace industry for the February issue of Aerospace International magazine: “China’s wider commercial relationships with developing world states are also providing useful leverage in forging deals.” China, then wants to move from just producing aircraft for its own domestic consumption, and a red-hot product like the J-20 could help it achieve this, far more than any slightly overweight A320 lookalike like the C919. Furthermore, with ‘Western-equivalent’ Chinese AAMs missiles to ‘bundle’ it with, any nation buying a J-20 would get an extremely capable weapon system – that will be ‘good enough’ for the majority of air forces and cheap enough to buy in siginficant numbers. Engines, too, are as of the moment an unknown. Previously reliant on Russia for engines any, development in powerplants would signify a greater leap forward than the pure airframe and some analysts have suggested a new Chinese engine, the Shenyang WS 15 may power the J-20. However, notably the J-20 also uses a divertless supersonic intake (DSI) and is only the third aircraft to sport this feature after the F-35 and Pakistan Air Force’s JF-17, suggesting that Chinese experience with this technology has been successful so far and it has brought benefits. armament China is now making great strides in guided weapons of all types. Its AMRAAM-type AAM, the PL-12, reportedly outranges the original US weapon. A short-range dogfight missile, the PL-ASR has been described as ‘very scary’ by one western missile expert. Meanwhile China is reported to be working on a long-range ramjet powered missile – the PL-13 comparable to Europe’s MBDA Meteor which, if introduced today, would outrange anything in the (white) US inventory. In short, Western missile experts in private are noticeably rattled by this progress and maintain that any gap in quality between western and Chinese air-to-air weaponry is fast closing.I sincerely hope best for J-20, by no means argue with Chinese abilities to compete in stealth race.

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China: A Military Force to Reckon with in the Western Pacific

China-United States: Two states that never intend harm can begin to perceive each other as growing threats

What’s going in Pacific these days is very interesting, America’s concerns about rising Iran and China’s defences within a region is one rise. How should America respond to that? The collapse of the Soviet Union had persuaded China’s leaders that an arms race with the world’s only superpower could squander enough money to pose a threat to the party’s grip. To challenge America head on made no sense. Instead China put its efforts into affordable “asymmetric” weapons. Earlier December, Economist published an extensive REPORT on rising China, with oulining the options US have in western pacific. China is becoming a military force to reckon with in the western Pacific. How should America respond? According to this report Three areas of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) modernisation stand out. Before I comment of these, have a look:

First, China has created what the Pentagon calls “the most active land-based ballistic- and cruise-missile programme in the world”. The Second Artillery ( is the strategic missile forces of the PLA) has about 1,100 short-range ballistic missiles facing Taiwan and has been extending their range and improving their accuracy and payload. The Second Artillery is also improving its medium-range ballistic missiles, able to carry either conventional or nuclear warheads. PLA is developing the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile, fitted with a manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle for added menace.

Second, China has transformed and enlarged its submarine fleet, which can now berth in the newly completed base on Hainan Island. In the eight years to 2002 China bought 12 Russian Kilo-class submarines, a big improvement on its own Ming and Romeo class boats. Since then the PLA navy has been introducing longer-range and stealthier Chinese designs, including the nuclear-powered Jin class, which carries ballistic missiles, and the Shang class, a nuclear-powered attack submarine. China has about 66 submarines against America’s 71, though the American boats are superior. By 2030, according to the Kokoda Foundation, an Australian think-tank, China could have 85-100 submarines.

Finally, China has concentrated on what it calls “informatisation”, a tongue-twister that Jiang Zemin coined in 2002 to describe how the PLA needs to function as one force, using sensors, communications and electronic and cyber-warfare. China now has a good idea of what is going on far into the Pacific, thanks to a combination of satellites, over-the-horizon radar, medium-range surface-wave radars, reconnaissance drones and underwater-sensor arrays.

What does this amount to? Military experts in America, Australia and Japan think China’s new arsenals are a greater threat than its higher-profile plans to launch aircraft-carriers in the next decade or so. According to the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), an American research institute, Chinese firepower threatens America’s Asian bases, which until now have been safe from all but nuclear attack. The Second Artillery’s missiles could swamp the bases’ defences and destroy runways as well as large numbers of fighters and ships. Japan is already within range of Chinese missiles, many of them currently pointing at Taiwan.

PLA’s Modernisation

The U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed the existence of the DF-21D land-based ASBM system, which is the world’s first and only of its kind. By combining manoeuvrable re-entry vehicles (MaRVs) with a terminal guidance system, the DF-21C is capable of targeting a slow-moving aircraft carrier battle group from a land-based mobile launcher. The maximum range of the missile was said to be 3,000km, possibly achieved by carrying a smaller payload.

Considering the first modernisation: Currently China is developing a land based DF-21D (Nato reporting name CSS-5 Mod-4) Anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). DF-21D ASBM is based on DF-21 (see above) is a two-stage, solid-propellant, single-warhead medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM). Its beauty is being High Hypersonic (capable of cruising at Mach 10). It has a range of 3,000 km (1,900 miles). This extends the range of DF-21 upto Malacca, Strait (Refer to the figure taken from Economist):

China’s submarines, missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles threaten America’s aircraft-carrier strike groups within 1,000 to 1,600 nautical miles of the Chinese coast

DF-21D ASBM – would be the world’s first and only ASBM and the world’s first weapons system capable of targeting a moving aircraft carrier strike group from long-range, land-based mobile launchers. It is evident today China can project power out from its coastline well beyond the 12-mile (19km) limit that the Americans once approached without a second thought. These would combine maneuverable reentry vehicles (MaRVs) with some kind of terminal guidance system. Launch of the Jianbing-5/YaoGan-1 (shown below) and Jianbing-6/YaoGan-2 satellites would give the Chinese targeting information from SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) and visual imaging respectively.

Jianbing-5/YaoGan-1

The upgrades would greatly enhance China’s ability to conduct sea-denial operations to prevent US carriers from intervention in the Taiwan Strait. DF-21D highlights the fact that the U.S. can no longer assume naval supremacy. China has recently launched a series of satellites to support its ASBM efforts. This range includes: Yaogan-VII electro-optical satellite (December 2009), Yaogan-VIII synthetic aperture radar satellite (December 2009) and Yaogan-IX Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS) constellation (3 satellites in formation) (March 2010).

DF-21A MRBM System in service with the PLA Second Artillery Corps (Chinese Internet)

Furthermore, The DF-21 has also been developed into space launcher and anti-satellite/anti-missile weapon carrier named Kaituozhe 1 Space Launch Vehicle. KT-1 (see below) is a four-stage, solid-propellant space launcher based on the DF-21 design. It is capable of placing up to 50kg payload into 600km Low Earth Orbits (LEO). The launcher made its maiden flight in September 2002 and then a second flight in September 2003, none of which was fully successful. CASIC also developed a larger KT-1A, which is capable of sending 300kg payload into the Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) and polar orbit, and the KT-1B with even greater payload capability (400kg and up to three separate payloads). None of the two designs has ever been launched.

A larger size KT-2A (later renamed KT-1B) was designed for polar orbits missions with greater payload capability (~400kg and up to three separate payloads)

According to a report by Aviation Weeks and Space Technology on 17 January 2007, U.S. intelligence agencies believed that China carried out a successful anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon test on 11 January, destroying the retired FengYun-1C meteorological satellite with a kinetic kill vehicle launched onboard a modified intermediate-range ballistic missile. The launch vehicle used during the test was speculated to be the KT-409, a derivation of the KT-1 solid-propellant space launch vehicle. The report suggested that the FengYun-1C satellite (launched in 1999) was attacked by an ASAT system launched from an unknown location near Xichang Satellite Launch Centre (XSLC) as the satellite at 530 miles (853km) altitude 4 degree west of Xichang. The attack occurred at about 17:28 EST on 11 January 2007 (22:28 GMT, 06:28 on 12 January local time).

Originally developed for strategic purposes, the DF-21’s later variants were designed for both nuclear and conventional missions. As well as a nuclear warhead of around 300kt, it is thought that high explosive, submunition and chemical warheads are also available. Final in the DF-21 class is SC-19 Kinetic Kill Vehicle Carrier. The launch vehicle for the kinetic kill vehicle (KKV) used during China’s first ASAT weapon test in January 2007 was reported to be SC-19, a modified variant of the DF-21 or KT-1.

Pacific in name only

Comming back to the Economist report, the article concludes that cold warriors are suffering from a bad case of “enemy-deprivation syndrome”. For all the uncertainties in this debate, three things are beyond dispute. These are:

First, China has already forced American ships to think about how and when they approach the Chinese coast. The closer American vessels come, the more missiles and submarines they face and the less time they would have to react to a strike. To deny America possession of seas it has dominated for decades, China does not need to control its own coastal waters; it just has to be able to threaten American ships there.

Second, China’s ability to project power is improving. Its submarines, fighter aircraft, missiles, and cyber- and electronic warfare, once poor, now pose a threat. China’s weapons will continue to improve, and its forces will gather experience. Provided that the economy does not fall over, budgets will grow, too, absolutely and possibly as a share of GDP. Other things being equal, China can project power into its backyard more easily than America can project power across the Pacific Ocean.

Third, although the United States is able to respond to China, it will have to overcome some obstacles first. America’s military spending in Asia is overshadowed by the need to cut overall government spending and by other military priorities, such as Afghanistan.

All this points to an important principle. Military planning is framed differently from diplomacy. Diplomats are interested in what they think states intend to do, but military planners have to work with what they think states can do. Intentions change and states can mislead. If you are charged with defending your country, you need to be able to meet even improbable threats.If you do not arm, you leave yourself open to attack. If you do, you threaten the other country.

Sources: A special report on China’s place in the world [The Economist, 2 December 2010]. Sino-Defence.com [4th June 2010]

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Russia Sells; China Clones

Today, Russia's military bonanza is over, and China's is just beginning.

China and America are bound to be rivals, but they do not have to be antagonists, Is that really the case? In many ways China has made efforts to try to reassure an anxious world. Leaving politics aside, the rise of chinese millitary power is obvious to all, not only millitary, china is making its way in Civil aviation market as well. But what is interesting in all is, a “Cloning Factor”. After decades of importing and reverse-engineering Russian arms, China has reached a tipping point: It now can produce many of its own advanced weapons—including high-tech fighter jets like the Su-27—and is on the verge of building an aircraft carrier. Not only have Chinese engineers cloned the prized Su-27’s avionics and radar but they are fitting it with the last piece in the technological puzzle, a Chinese jet engine.

At Zhuhai 2010 one thing was clear: China is starting to export much of this weaponry, undercutting Russia in the developing world, and potentially altering the military balance in several of the world’s flash points. China, here laid on its biggest commercial display of military technology—almost all based on Russian know-how. The star guests were the “Sherdils,” a Pakistani aerobatic team flying fighter jets that are Russian in origin but are now being produced by Pakistan and China. Russia’s predicament mirrors that of many foreign companies as China starts to compete in global markets with advanced trains, power-generating equipment and other civilian products based on technology obtained from the West. This is not all, there is an additional security dimension, however: China is developing weapons systems, including aircraft carriers and carrier-based fighters, that could threaten Taiwan and test U.S. control of the Western Pacific. According to West, Chinese exports of fighters and other advanced weapons also “threaten” to alter the military balance in South Asia, Sudan and Iran. But if I am sitting in Iran or Pakistan, the story is otherway round. Interestingly China accounted for 2% of global arms transfers between 2005-2009, putting it in ninth place among exporters, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). But no other Asian country has sought to project military power—and had the indigenous capability to do so—since Japan’s defeat in 1945.

As the Chinese leaders’ history lesson will have told them, the relationship that determines whether the world is at peace or at war is that between pairs of great powers. Sometimes, as with Britain and America, it goes well. Sometimes, as between Britain and Germany, it does not. There are also implications for U.S. weapons programs. Last year the Pentagon decided to cut funding for the F-22—currently the most advanced fighter deployed in the world—partly on the grounds that China wouldn’t have many similar aircraft for at least 15 years. But then Gen. He Weirong, deputy head of China’s Air Force, announced that Chinese versions of such jets were about to undergo test flights, and would be deployed in “eight or 10 years.” The Defense Intelligence Agency now says it will take China “about 10 years” to deploy stealth fighters in “meaningful numbers.”

J-11: many aviation experts believe AVIC is having problems developing an indigenous engine for the J-11B with the same thrust and durability as the original Russian ones.

Few things illustrate this more clearly than the J-11B (shown below), a Chinese fighter that Russian officials allege is a direct copy of the Su-27, a one-seat fighter that was developed by the Soviets through the 1970s and 1980s as a match for the U.S. F-15 and F-16. Before the early 1990s, Moscow hadn’t provided major arms to Beijing since an ideological split in 1956, which led to a brief border clash in 1969. In 1992 (after collapse of Soviet Union), China became the first country outside the former Soviet Union to buy the Su-27, paying $1 billion for 24. Beijing’s breakthrough came in 1996, when it paid Russia $2.5 billion for a license to assemble another 200 Su-27s at the Shenyang Aircraft Company. The agreement stipulated that the aircraft—to be called the J-11—would include imported Russian avionics, radars and engines and couldn’t be exported. The J-11B looked almost identical to the Su-27, but China said it was 90% indigenous and included more advanced Chinese avionics and radars. Only the engine was still Russian, China said.

Sukhoi 27: The J-11B looked almost identical to the Su-27, but China said it was 90% indigenous and included more advanced Chinese avionics and radars. Only the engine was still Russian

The J-11B presented Russia with a stark choice—to continue selling China weapons, and risk having them cloned, too, or to stop, and miss out on its still lucrative market.many aviation experts believe AVIC is having problems developing an indigenous engine for the J-11B with the same thrust and durability as the original Russian ones. Photographs published recently on Chinese military websites appear to show engines fitted on the J-11B and a modified version—called the J-15—for use on aircraft carriers. The birth of J-15 can be read on my previous post Here Its not just Su-27 that concerns Russians, but also Su-33, a more advanced version of Su-27. The J-11B is expected to be used by the Chinese navy as its frontline fighter, capable of sustained combat over the entire East China Sea and South China Sea. Aircraft carriers and J-15 fighters would further enhance its ability to stop the U.S. intervening in a conflict over Taiwan, and test its control of the Western Pacific. China’s arms exports could have repercussions on regions in conflict around the world. Pakistan inducted its first squadron of Chinese-made fighter jets in February, potentially altering the military balance with India.The potential customer of greatest concern to the U.S. for JF-17 sale, is Iran, which purchased about $260 million of weapons from China between 2002-2009, according to Russia’s Centre for Analysis of the Global Arms Trade. Economist cites, that China and America have one advantage over history’s great-power pairings: they saw the 20th century go disastrously wrong. It is up to them to ensure that the 21st is different.

Detail about china’s rise and Russian arm deal, can be read on this extensive report published in Wall Street Journal, HERE

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