Airshow China 2010: A Mighty SpectacleThe 8th China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition, held in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province between November 16 and 21, played host to about 70 aircraft from 35 countries, and more than 600 domestic and foreign exhibitors. VVIPs attending the expo included the Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) Guo Boxiong, Defence Minister Gen Liang Guanglie, Chief of General Staff for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Gen Chen Bingde, plus official delegations from more than 50 countries hailing from Africa, Asia and Latin America. Formation aerobatics this time were performed by the PLA Air Force’s Bayi (August 1) aerobatic team (flying the Chengdu Jian J-10 medium multi-role combat aircraft), and by the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) ‘Sherdil’ aerobatic team flying the Karakoram-8 primary jet trainer (PJT).
The principal highlight of the expo was the detailing of China’s multi-tier space exploration roadmap, which includes the deployment of a manned space station around 2020. Prior to that, Beijing will launch a space laboratory before 2016 to master key technologies such as living conditions for astronauts on board the manned space station. It will subsequently develop and launch a core cabin and a second laboratory module around 2020, which would be assembled in orbit into a space station. The station would study technologies concerning long-term manned space flights. China has already announced plans to launch two unmanned modules next year, which are expected to undergo the country’s first space docking—an essential step towards building the space station. China sees the manned space station programme as a symbol of its global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party’s success in turning around the fortunes of the formerly poverty-stricken nation. China became only the third country in the world to put a man in space—after the US and Russia—when PLA Air Force Col Yang Liwei piloted the one-man Shenzhou-5 space mission in 2003. And in September 2008, the Shenzhou-7 mission, piloted by three astronauts, saw China carrying out its first space walk. China is also making strides in lunar exploration, aiming to become the second country to put a man on the moon. It launched its second lunar probe on October 1, and hopes to bring a moon rock sample back to Earth in 2017, and has planned a manned mission to the moon for around 2020.
Next year will see the launch of the TG-1 TianGong-1 space module. TiangGong-1 is expected to accomplish the country’s first space docking and is regarded as an essential step toward building a space station. Weighing about 8.5 tonnes, TianGong-1 will be able to perform long-term unattended operations, which will be an essential step toward building a manned space station. The unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft will achieve China’s first space docking. The docking manoeuvres are going to be controlled from the ground. Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10, the two other spaceships to dock with Tiangong-1, would carry a crew of two or three. TG-1 TianGong-1 is going to be launched by a modified CZ-2F Chang Zheng-2F launch vehicle, sometimes referred to as CZ-2F/G Chang Zheng-2F/G, sporting 170 technological modifications, including 38 major refinements. China is also advancing on the development of the CZ-5 Chang Zheng-5 series of satellite launch vehicles with the building of a launch vehicle production base in the northern municipality of Tianjin. This development has a total investment of Yuan10 billion and covers an area of more than 1 million square metres. The base will be capable of producing 12 launch vehicles a year, and after the first phase of construction is completed in 2011, the base will be able to produce two launch vehicles. Earlier reports point to the first launch of the CZ-5, with a maximum payload capacity of up to 25 tonnes, in 2014.
Combat Aircraft Updates
One of the most significant revelations coming out of the exhibition was official confirmation of the existence of two parallel R & D programmes aimed at fielding a fourth-generation M-MRCA—the Jian J-14—by 2014, and the fifth-generation Jian J-20 air dominance combat aircraft by 2018. Both these new-generation combat aircraft are being developed by the PLA Air Force’s Nos 601 and 611 Institute, with Chengdu Aircraft Corp’s Plant No132 (CAC) acting as the prime industrial contractor. The J-14 will be twin-engined version of the existing single-engined Jian J-10A (140 of which are presently operational), and will feature enlarged wings and a twin vertical tail structure. Powerplant for the J-14 will be two WS-10G turbofans (each rated at 147kN maximum thrust) developed by the Liming Aeroengine Manufacturing Corp (LAMC). The J-20, on the other hand, will be powered by twin uprated WS-10Gs, each of which will offer a maximum thrust of 155kN. It was on November 9 that the PLA Air Force’s Deputy Commander, Gen He Weirong, confirmed the existence of both the J-14 and J-20 by saying that the former will soon be rolled out, while the latter will begin entering service by 2018. The J-20’s design will be characterised by three ‘S’ capabilities: stealth, super cruise, super manoeuvrability and short take-off. Gen He also confirmed that flight-tests of the J-10B M-MRCA (also known as FC-20) will ‘soon’ enter series-production and it too will be powered by a WS-10A turbofan. Pakistan will be the first export customer for this M-MRCA, having ordered 36 of them on November 10, 2009 under a $1.4 million contract. In another development, the PLAAF has already completed flight-tests of a J-11B (licence-built Su-27SKM) powered by twin WS-10A turbofans (each rated at 132kN) and equipped with an indigenously designed glass cockpit. The WS-10 family of turbofans has been developed under the ‘Taihang’ project by the PLAAF’s 606 and 624 Institutes. The WS-10A has a maximum thrust rating of 13,200kg and a 7.5:1 thrust-to-weight ratio. It is a 12-stage low-bypass ratio engine. During the engine family R & D process, China reportedly achieved some 300 breakthroughs in aviation technologies and materials, such as transonic turbine, air-film cooling blade, integrated fan rotor by electron beam-welding, squeeze-film damper, metal-brush seal, high-energy igniter, variable camber inlet guide-vanes, and convergent-divergent nozzle. The combined cooling blade of the turbines use hi-tech materials like single-crystal nickel-based turbine blades, and directionally solidified eutectic super-alloys. All members of the WS-10 family are equipped with FADEC fuel-flow control systems. Presently, an asymmetric thrust vector control (TVC) nozzle is undergoing testing. In addition to the WS-10A/G, there are two more types of turbofans being developed by China. LAMC and the Guizhou Aircraft Industry Corp (GAIC) have co-developed the WS-13 Taishan turbofan, which is designed to power the JF-27 Thunder/FC-1 Xiaolong MRCA, thereby replacing the existing Klimov RD-93 engine. Designed to have a total technical service life of 2,200 hours, it is currently rated at 86kN, but this will be increased to 100kN over the next five years. One JF-17 prototype has been flight-testing the WS-13 since last March. Yet another turobfan under development is the WS-15, also designed by 606 Institute, which is projected to have a thrust rating of 180kN with afterburner.
At Zhuhai, officials from both CATIC and CETC confirmed that the PLA Air Force has selected the twin-engined tandem-seatJH-7A ‘Flying Leopard’ to perform an electronic attack (EA) role similar to Boeing’s EA-18G Growler. The JH-7A can carry a 6.5-tonne payload, and has a long ferry range of 3,650km. Thus far, only one JH-7A from the PLA Air Force’s 28th Air Attack Division has been shown equipped with twin underwing broadband jammers. Meanwhile, Chief Designer of the JH-7A, all problems pertaining to WS-9 Qinling turbofan (a reverse-engineered Rolls-Royce Spey Mk202), have now been resolved. At the same time, efforts have been underway since 1998 to develop the WS-15 Qinling-2 turbofan, which is similar in technology and performance to Snecma Moteurs’ M53P2 turbofan. Initial bench-tests of this turbofan in October 2008 were reportedly successful.
In addition to combat aircraft, China’s vast aviation R & D establishments have also developed advanced flying training aircraft, and are now focusing on fielding a new generation of strategic airlifters, aerial refuelling tankers, tactical transport aircraft, and force multipliers like AEW & C platforms. Shown at Zhuhai for the first time was the L-7 basic trainer, whose design is derived from, the Russian Yak-152K. The tandem-seat L-7, developed by Hongdu Industrial Aviation Group (HIAG), comes equipped with conventional flight instrumentation and is powered by a M-14X piston engine. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 1,290kg, maximum level speed 335kph, maximum climb rate of 11 metres/second, g-load sustenance of +9g/-7g, service ceiling of 6,500 metres, and a maximum range of 1,000km. For lead-in fighter training (LIFT), HIAG along with Russia’s Yakovlev OKB, has developed the tandem-seat, twin-engined L-15 Falcon, which features twin glass cockpits, HOTAS controls, and a three-axis quadruplex fly-by-wire flight control system. The L-15 is being offered with a choice of two Ukrainian powerplants: the Ivchenko-Progress AI-222-25 turbofan, and the AI-222K-25F with afterburner for supersonic flight capability. The L-15 has a maximum takeoff weight of 9,500kg, maximum speed of Mach 1.4, maximum climb rate of 150 metres/second, load sustenance of +8g/-3g, service ceiling of 16,000 metres, loitering time of two hours, and a structural airframe life of 10,000 flight hours.
For aerial refuelling, AVIC Defense has developed the H-6U, some 10 of which are assigned to the PLAAF’s 8th Air Division (or possibly the 48th) at Leiyang air base in the Guangzhou Military Region. The H-6U has two underwing pods developed by the China Research Institute of Aero Accessories, and also a TACAN system that provides ‘mutual detection’ (azimuth and range information) between the tanker and receiver within 200km and is intended to facilitate en route rendezvous. It is believed that all H-6U pilots log in only 80 flying hours a year, which allow for one three-hour training sortie every two weeks. A typical operational sortie would have twelve J-10As supported by two H-6Us on three combat air patrol (CAP) orbits (one flight of four aircraft per CAP) at 1,200km
source : Tempur