December 7, 1999
China has announced plans to convert its Air Force from short-ranged units able to do little more than defend fixed targets near major air bases into a modern multi-role power projection force. Of course, the Chinese have announced these plans every year since 1996, but this year there are ominous indications that Beijing may have been serious all along.
@ China has bought two regiments of advanced long-range Su-27 strike fighters from Russia and wants to build 200 aircraft under license.
@ China has bought 40 two-seat Su-30 strike bombers for delivery starting next year.
@ China has converted some H-6 (Tu-16 Badger) bombers into aerial tankers. While these ancient planes are no real threat, they do indicate an intention to learn how to do refueling and incorporate it into their tactics.
@ China is now building prototypes of the F-10 multi-role fighter (designed in China).
@ China has bought an A-50 Mainstay airframe from the Russians and has flown it to Israel for a $250 million conversion into an AWACS plan using the Israeli Phalcon phased-array radar. [The Israelis insist that no US technology was used in developing Phalcon, which has also been sold to Chile. Of course, the Israelis also denied having sold 105mm tank cannon production technology to the Chinese, who are now fitting 105mm cannons identical to the US design in their new tanks.] The contract with the Israeli company Elta includes an option for three more aircraft, and the British insist that they are still in the running for Chinese orders for their Argus-2000 radar planes. The Chinese AWACS will be a pale imitation of the US designs, but it will allow them to do something they cannot do now: operate more than four fighters in the same area.--Stephen V Cole
China's new sea launched ICBM (the JL-2) appears suspiciously similar to the latest American Trident missiles (rather than the Soviet era missile designs which, like everything else in Russia these days, is available for a price.) It is widekly assummed that the JL-2 warheads also borrow from the miniaturized US W-88 nclear weapon.