China Debuts J-20 Stealth Jet — Gets Into the Major Business of Overseas Military Sales

NOV. 1, 2016, 2:00 A.M. E.D.T.

China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet flies at the China’s International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016. China’s J-20 stealth fighter has made its public debut at Airshow China in the southern city of Zhuhai in the latest sign of the growing sophistication of the country’s military technology. (AP Photo)

ZHUHAI, China — China showed its Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter in public for the first time on Tuesday, opening the country’s biggest meeting of aircraft makers and buyers with a show of its military clout.

Airshow China, in the southern city of Zhuhai, offers Beijing an opportunity to demonstrate its ambitions in civil aerospace and to underline its growing capability in defense. China is set to overtake the U.S. as the world’s top aviation market in the next decade.

China unveils its J-20 stealth fighter on an air show in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, China, November 1, 2016. China Daily/via REUTERS

Two J-20 jets, Zhuhai’s headline act, swept over dignitaries, hundreds of spectators and industry executives gathered at the show’s opening ceremony in a flypast that barely exceeded a minute, generating a deafening roar that was met with gasps and applause and set off car alarms in a parking lot.

Experts say China has been refining designs for the J-20, first glimpsed by planespotters in 2010, in the hope of narrowing a military technology gap with the United States. President Xi Jinping has pushed to toughen the armed forces as China takes a more assertive stance in Asia, particularly in the South China and East China seas.

“It is clearly a big step forward in Chinese combat capability,” said Bradley Perrett of Aviation Week, a veteran China watcher.

State-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) was also bullish on China’s appetite for new civilian planes, estimating the market would need 6,865 new aircraft worth $930 billion over the next 20 years.

The COMAC forecast – similar to long-term outlooks from well-established rivals Boeing Co and Airbus Group – said China would make up almost a fifth of global demand for close to 40,000 planes over the next two decades.


After screeching onto the Zhuhai stage as a pair at low-level, one of the J-20s quickly disappeared over the horizon, leaving the other to perform a series of turns, revealing its delta wing shape against bright sub-tropical haze.

It was China’s second successive display of stealth at the biennial show, following the 2014 debut of the J-31.

But analysts said the brief and relatively cautious J-20 routine – the pilots did not open weapon bay doors, or perform low-speed passes – answered few questions.

“I think we learned very little. We learned it is very loud. But we can’t tell what type of engine it has, or very much about the mobility,” said Greg Waldron, Asia Managing Editor of FlightGlobal. “Most importantly, we didn’t learn much about its radar cross-section.”

A key question whether the new Chinese fighter can match the radar-evading properties of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor air-to-air combat jet, or the latest strike jet in the U.S. arsenal, Lockheed’s F-35. The F-22, developed for the U.S. Air Force, is the J-20’s closest lookalike.

But the mere display of such a newly developed aircraft was a revealing signal, others said.

“It’s a change of tactics for the Chinese to publicly show off weapons that aren’t in full squadron service yet,” said Sam Roggeveen, a senior fellow at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, “and demonstrates a lot of confidence in the capability, and also a lot of pride.”


Other aircraft on display on Tuesday alongside the latest Chinese weapon systems, radar and drones, included the Xian Y-20 strategic airlifter, and what organizers say is the largest amphibious plane now in production – the AG600.

The flying boat is officially promoted as a fire-fighting or search and rescue plane. But analysts note the AG600 – first unveiled 10 days after a Hague tribunal ruled against China’s claim to parts of the South China Sea in July – is well suited to resupplying military outposts in the disputed area.

A model of a wide-body jet being developed by COMAC and Russia’s UAC was also on show, revealing design details such as wingspan and cruising speeds for the first time. Airbus and Boeing dominate the wide-body segment.

Notably absent from the airshow schedule, though, was the 150-seater COMAC C919 passenger jet, which has been beset by delays and is now running three years behind original plans.

COMAC said at the show that China Eastern Airlines will be the launch customer for the C919, which may take its first test flight later this year or early 2017, and that it had clinched 23 new orders for its C919, taking total firm orders to 570.

(Additional reporting by Michael Martina in BEIJING; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)


How China Is Catching Up on Stealth Technology with a Knockoff F-35


By Marcus Weisgerber, Defense One

New technical specs about China’s new J-31 fighter, a plane designed to rival the American-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, popped up on a Chinese blog last week. So who has the advantage — the U.S. or China?

China’s twin-engine design bears a striking resemblance to the single-jet F-35. Still, the Joint Strike Fighter is expected to fly slightly farther and carry a heavier load of weapons, according to the data, which was first reported by Jane’s.

Military experts say that while the J-31 looks like, and may even fly like, the F-35, it’s what’s under the hood and embedded in the skin that really matters. The U.S. has the better computer software, unique sensors and other hardware, stealth coating, and engines technology—all critical attributes that make fifth-generation aircraft different than the military jets of last century.

Exactly how long that advantage lasts is up for debate; senior Pentagon officials and experts believe American technology superiority is shrinking. That means the U.S. military’s weapons will not overmatch adversaries for as long as they have in past decades.

“It’s basically, are they producing weapon systems that have fifth-generation characteristics that potentially nullify some of our planned advantages in the future battlespace,” said Peter Singer, a strategist and senior fellow at New America.

“[W]e were depending more so on the [American weapons] having that generation-ahead edge, and if we don’t have that generation-ahead edge, that is incredibly scary for us in various scenarios,” Singer said.

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and acquisition chief Frank Kendall have spent much of the past two years warning that the U.S. military’s technology advantage is eroding.

“What it does is reduce the cost and lead time of our adversaries to doing their own designs, so it gives away a substantial advantage,” Kendall said of cyber espionage at a 2013 Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing.

Since then, Work and Kendall have been leading projects to find technologies that will give the American military an advantage on the battlefield of the future.

China is suspected of stealing F-35 design data in 2009. U.S. officials have said classified information was not stolen in that breach, but in 2011 it emerged that China was building a multirole, stealth fighter of its own that could strike targets in the air and on the ground, like the F-35. The J-31 flew for the first time in 2012.

The Pentagon huddled with defense companies in 2007 to urge firms to better protect their networks. Companies are attempting to beef up their cybersecurity, but there is a gap in the security talent, said Justin Harvey, chief security officer for Fidelis Cybersecurity, a firm that works with the U.S. government and private industry.

“They’re buying these tools, but they’re not investing a ton in the people,” he said. Whenever a company is attacked, they typically call Fidelis or similar cybersecurity firms to consult because they don’t have employees with the training or experience to assess the breach.

“I think 90 percent of U.S. companies are not equipped to deal with cyber espionage,” Harvey said.

The defense industrial base and financial services industry are the best-protected, he said.

Cyber espionage allows rival companies to get access to the information gleaned during testing “for the cost of breaching your network,” Singer said.

Cyber theft allows China to save tens of billions of dollars in research-and-development, the experimentation and testing a new weapon goes through before it reaches the battlefield, experts say. While the Chinese jet fighters might still be inferior to the American planes, not having to do early research and development allows them to focus on upgrades and improvements.

This means the 10- to 20-year advantage an aircraft like the F-35 was supposed have on the battlefield might not be there, Singer said. Those Chinese plans could then compete against U.S.-made aircraft 20 years from now when the U.S. government allows more and more allies to buy the F-35.

“Those future competitions will be incredibly difficult because we’ll have paid the R&D for our competitors,” Singer said.

Increased research-and-development costs, ever common in Pentagon acquisition projects, often lead to a decrease in the total number of items purchased. Most recently, this was the case with the F-35’s older brother, the F-22 Raptor. The Air Force had wanted more than 700 planes, a number cut first to 381 and ultimately to 187.

“The expense of our fifth-generation [fighter aircraft] means we have not been able to buy as many as we want,” Singer said.

Related: The $1 Trillion Question for the F-35: Is the U.S. Buying an Inferior Plane?

But the F-35, unlike previous aircraft, has been designed to receive upgrades over the years, which will ultimately improve its capabilities, allowing it defeat new threats.

F-35 development will end in October 2017. After that the program will move into a “follow-on development” phase, said F-35 project spokesman Joe DellaVedova. “One of the F-35’s great strengths is that it’s a growth platform, so its software, its processors, its radar, its capability; there’s a lot of room for growth.”

The jet fighters will get software and hardware upgrades every two years on an alternating basis.

The F-35 itself and its ground equipment undergo multiple tests each year to make sure the systems can withstand cyber attack, DellaVedova said. “We take the cyber threat very seriously,” he said.

While the Chinese planes might still have inferior systems, stealing intellectual property and subsequent R&D savings also allows Beijing to make drastic changes in prototypes.

For the J-20, a Chinese stealth fighter being built to rival the F-22, there have been numerous prototypes in which the plane’s design has become stealthier, Singer said.

“Their designs, their capabilities are shifting from prototype to prototype in a way that has not happening with the current way that we are building our fifth-gen systems,” he said.

This piece originally appeared on DefenseOne. For more from DefenseOne:

Can the U.S. Trust China to Stop Stealing Business Secrets?


 (Includes cyberspying, cybertheft)


China battles fierce competition and quality issues in fight for weapons sales

By Minnie Chan
South China Morning Post

More than 900 Chinese weapons will be on display at Zhuhai air show, but it still trails US and Russia in global market share

Monday, October 31, 2016, 8:43 a.m.

The biennial Airshow China expo in Zhuhai, which starts on Tuesday, will showcase many advanced, Chinese-made weapons to potential customers in Asia and Africa.

More than 900 Chinese weapons will be on display, according to the organiser of the six-day show, which will feature more than 700 exhibitors from more than 42 countries and regions – with more than 400 exhibitors from China alone.

But while military experts say the quality of cheaper Chinese weapons has improved, Chinese manufacturers are still struggling to build brands in an international market dominated by competitors from the United States and Russia.

At September’s Africa Aerospace and Defence air show in Pretoria, South Africa, Chinese exhibitors struggled to find buyers even though Beijing tried hard to secure sales of its L-15 Falcon trainer and JF-17 fighter, Andrei Chang, the founder of military magazine Kanwa Asian Defence, told the South China Morning Post.

 The Chinese missile frigate Yuncheng launches an anti-ship missile during a military exercise in the South China Sea in July. Photo: Xinhua

He said Cameroon had received four Harbin Z-9 attack helicopters from China after Beijing offered a US$100 million loan last year, but one of them had crashed soon after being handed over. Cameroon was still negotiating with China over the accident and had no any plans to buy any more Chinese weapons due to quality concerns, Chang said.

Professor Jonathan Holslag, head of research at the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies, said financial problems were causing many countries, including South Africa, to be more hesitant and cautious when purchasing new arms.

“There is also fierce competition and many countries are willing to make offers at knockdown prices,” Holslag said, adding that many of Beijing’s previous clients harboured quality concerns.

“Military sales come with important maintenance and training services and China has still a way to go in this regard,” he said.

Chinese arms manufacturers may find it even more challenging to make sales following the reported failure of Chinese-made C-705 anti-ship missiles to hit their targets during an Indonesian exercise in September that was watched by Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

IHS Jane’s reported that two C-705 missiles failed to hit their targets after being fired from two of the Indonesian navy’s KCR-40-class missile attack craft during the large-scale Armada Jaya 2016 exercise in the Java Sea on September 14.

Indonesia had acquired a licence that would allow state-owned aircraft maker PT Dirgantara Indonesia to produce C-705 missiles locally by 2017 or 2018, according to an earlier report in The Jakarta Post.

 Shore-to-ship missiles on display during a parade in Beijing in September 2015. Photo: Xinhua

It is not clear whether the licence contract will be affected by the failed launch, but Chinese military experts said the poor performance of the C-705, a high-subsonic missile guided by the US Global Positioning System (GPS) or Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS), might have an adverse short-term impact on international sales of Chinese-made weapons.

“It’s impossible to make sure all missiles can hit any targets accurately,” said military observer Zhou Chenming, who previously worked for a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the main state-owned contractor for the country’s space programme, and is now a researcher at the Knowfar Institute for Strategic and Defence Studies, a non-government think tank in Jiangyin, Jiangsu province. “Normally, a manufacturer would note a general kill probability at 90 to 95 per cent during range tests.

“When a missile is fired, human factors play the key role during the intermediate operations to decide whether it will hit its designated target, including a series of reference data such as what altitude it needs to ascend to in the first stage and when it needs to turn.”

Zhou said the capabilities of the C-705 missile and the shorter-range C-701 and C-704 models had been proven in recent attacks by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen on United Arab Emirates vessels that were part of a Saudi Arabian-backed coalition supporting the Yemeni government.

Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said local weather, and whether the Indonesian missiles operators had followed all the necessary procedures, would also affect the launch result.

“Weapons are made with various metals and other sensitive materials, so local weather like temperature, humidity, salinity may cause problems,” Li said, adding that the climate in China was very different from that in Indonesia.

Li cited the example of at least six crashes by Russian Sukhoi Su-30 series jet fighters in India from 2009 to 2015, whereas similar problems were not encountered by the Vietnamese and Indonesian air forces or China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

 A People’s Liberation Army Air Force GJ-1 drone at the Zhuhai air show in November 2014. Photo: Dickson Lee

A comprehensive report in June last year by the Russian website Russia Beyond the Headlines said that India’s harsh climate, different training requirements and problematic maintenance systems were all key reasons behind the crashes.

The report said Sukhoi kept a close eye on products sold overseas as part of its after-sales service.

Military experts said that was something Chinese arms producers would need to emulate in the longer term if they hoped to build up brand names for their weapons in the international market.

“Many countries decide to buy weapons from the US and Russia just because of the security guarantees, similar to an alliance, which China is so far is incapable of giving to its African and Asian clients,” Zhou said.

Dr Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, a research associate at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, said China’s defence industry was getting bigger but the quality of the weapons it produced was not the best.

“I do not think that China has built its brand in the field of global weapon exports … but in recent years, China has been paying a lot of attention on research and innovation,” he said.

“Certainly, cutting-edge technology will be very critical in shaping the global arms market. The US and some other countries are way ahead of China in defence research and manufacturing … another important factor is that major importers of arms lack the required political trust in China, and China doesn’t figure at the top of many countries’ priority lists for arms procurement.”

Zhou said political trust was a key factor behind the new Sri Lankan government’s reluctance to commit to Chinese arms purchase agreements signed by its predecessor.

Last month’s Chinese-language Kanwa Defence Review also reported that Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who assumed office in January last year, might renege on Chinese weapons deals.

In an exclusive interview with Chang, Air Chief Marshal Kolitha Gunathilake, Sri Lanka’s Chief of Defence Staff, denied rumours it had signed a JF-17 contract with China or Pakistan and said Sri Lanka had decided against making such a purchase.

“I didn’t make final decision, so far I’ve just watched a demonstration of the JF-17’s flight simulator on the ground,” he said.

 President Xi Jinping met Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena in Goa, India, on October 16. Photo: Xinhua

Gunathilake said Sri Lanka did need to buy new generation aircraft to replace its ageing Chinese J-7s and Russian MiG-27s and was considering buying second-hand F-16s from the US.

“The problem is it’s too expensive,” he said.

Li said that in order to compete with American and Russian arms manufacturers, Chinese firms would have to offer long-term security assurances,training services and other after-sales services to customers.

“China’s advantage is focused on ‘hardware’ – making weapons,” he said. “The ‘software’ related to after-sales service will take longer to come up with a comprehensive system.

“Creating a weapons brand is challenging, but it’s the ultimate goal and necessary for a country to further perfect its military-industrial complex.”

More than two-thirds of African countries are using Chinese military equipment according to The Military Balance 2016 report published in February by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). It described Africa as an increasingly important market for China’s defence exports, with Nigeria, Uganda and Djibouti among 10 countries that had become “emergent customers” for Beijing’s arms exports since 2005.

But China still accounted for only 5.9 per cent of global arms exports from 2011-2015, according to a recent report on global arms transfers by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), well behind the US and Russia, the world’s two largest arms exporters.

The SIPRI report said China had supplied major arms to 37 states between 2011 and 2015, but 75 per cent of its exports were to states in Asia and Oceania. Pakistan was the main recipient of Chinese exports, accounting for 35 per cent of the total, followed by Bangladesh (20 per cent) and Myanmar (16 per cent).

 Chinese sailors salute on top of a submarine during a fleet review at a Sino-Russian joint naval exercise in the Yellow Sea in April 2012. Photo: Reuters

The PLA Daily reported recently that China had spared no efforts to expand overseas markets, with submarines, missiles and fighter jets being among the sophisticated weapons exported to neighbours. It added that Beijing would be transferring at least 13 submarines worth a total of about US$6.2 billion in the coming years, with eight going to Pakistan, three to Thailand and two to Bangladesh.

The 11 modified diesel-electric attack submarines destined for Pakistan and Thailand, which analysts speculate will be a lighter, export version of the PLA Navy’s Type 041 Yuan-class conventional attack submarine, might feature air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems allowing the submarines to stay submerged for longer.

According to earlier PLA Daily reports, China has also provided missiles and tanks to Pakistan, which established diplomatic relations with Beijing in 1950, becoming one of the first countries to switch recognition from Taipei. Pakistan is also the co-developer of China’s JF-17 fighter.

Chaturvedy said the close relationship between China and Pakistan had caused India to enhance its defence cooperation with Japan, import more weapons from Russia and other countries, and develop more home-made arms.

“Russia was the dominant supplier of arms for India, but in recent years India has diversified its sources,” he said. “The US, Israel, and some European countries including France have become very important in this regard. Gradually, Russia’s importance will be reduced due to policy changes and the willingness of major countries to strengthen relations with India.

“India will also give top priority to a new category of procurement known as indigenous design, development and manufacturing. The ‘Make in India’ programme is an attempt to transform the indigenous defence industry through the public-private partnership model. In the case of global procurement, India is keen on technology transfer rather than just buying arms.”


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2 Responses to “China Debuts J-20 Stealth Jet — Gets Into the Major Business of Overseas Military Sales”

  1. China Debuts J-20 Stealth Jet — Gets Into the Major Business of Overseas Military Sales — Peace and Freedom | Brittius Says:

    […] via China Debuts J-20 Stealth Jet — Gets Into the Major Business of Overseas Military Sales — Peace … […]

  2. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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