Warplanes: China Beats The Embargo

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June 9, 2009: China is seeking to resume manufacturing the JF-7 fighter bomber. To this end, negotiations are underway with jet engine makers in France (Snecma) and Britain (Rolls Royce), to provide engines. The JH-7 entered service a decade ago, although only about a hundred were built. Additional production was delayed because the aircraft was designed to use a British engine (the Spey 202), which was not supposed to be going to China after the 1989 embargo. But Rolls Royce, the manufacturer quietly continued exporting some engines, and technical assistance. China thought it could reverse-engineer this engine, but was unable to do so. China made peace with Rolls Royce over this abortive bit of tech piracy, and began producing their version of the Spey 202 (WS9) in the late 1990s. But China continues to have problems with manufacturing jet engines to Western standards, and wants more direct assistance from Rolls Royce. Thus China is trying to get a proper production license from the British engine manufacturer, so that it can build more JH-7s. But that 1989 embargo keeps getting in the way. China is discussing the technical aspects of resuming engine imports, with Rolls Royce and Snecma, in expectation that the European Union will soon drop the embargo. Meanwhile, China buys second hand Spey 202 engines wherever it can.

The JH-7 is a 27 ton, twin engine aircraft, with a 40 foot wingspan. It is underpowered, and only has a five ton bomb load. But using new Chinese made smart bombs and air-to-ground missiles, the JH-7 becomes more useful. The JH-7 is used mainly by the Chinese navy. The aircraft has an operational radius of about 900 kilometers, enabling it to contribute to an attack on Taiwan, or a blockade of the islands ports. The JH7A could carry four KD-88 missiles. China wants to build another 150 JH-7s, as an improved version (JH-7A) with more powerful engines and better electronics.

 

 


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