Warplanes: The Big Picture in China

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December 18, 2005: While foreign observers tend to concentrate on individual Chinese air warfare projects, they are actually advancing on a wide front. Currently, China is working on development and/or production of 17 different aircraft. These include the J-11, the J-10; the J-8; the JF-17 (in cooperation with Pakistan), a modernized version of the J-7, the Q-10 and two variants of the Russian Su-30. The J-10 and J-11 (a licensed copy of the Russian Su-27) include work on stealth technology. These projects include equipping aircraft with new electronics and missiles. For example, the K-7 (an upgraded Russian MiG-21) is being equipped with heat seeking missiles that work with a helmet mounted sighting system. This makes these aircraft much deadlier in close range combat. Bombers are being equipped to drop laser guided bombs and missiles. China is also getting AWACS technology (and aircraft) from Russia, is using more aerial tankers and is developing several UAVs.

China is going to great lengths to develop a military aircraft industry. Production technology is being purchased and installed in large quantities. In addition to legally acquired stuff (mainly from Russia), large quantities of technology is being stolen from the West, using an extensive technical espionage network. China has made great strides in the last ten years in the critical areas of jet engine manufacturing, and aircraft electronics. China is still a second rate power in these areas, but they understand they have to walk before they can run, and at the moment, they are walking quite purposefully forward.

 


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