China’s high-end military technology showcased at biggest air show
- Space exploration plans, commercial aircraft also in the spotlight
- A “Loyal wingman” drone under development to protect fighter jets
- U.S.-China trade tensions put pressure on civilian industry
ZHUHAI, China, Sept. 30 (Reuters) – China this week presented an extravagant display of once-secret high-end military technology at its largest airshow, while broadcasting its growing ambitions for space exploration and self-sufficiency in commercial aircraft.
Travel restrictions linked to the pandemic meant that Airshow China in the southern city of Zhuhai was largely a national affair, but foreign observers have been keeping a close eye on developments from afar as China builds up its military strength.
“The key platforms in service with the PLAAF – which were previously operated in the strictest confidence – which have been presented to the public for the first time have attracted considerable attention from the international public,” said Kelvin Wong, editor-in-chief. of Defense based in Singapore at Janes.
He pointed to the WZ-7 Xianglong, a high-altitude, long-endurance reconnaissance drone roughly analogous to the American-made Northrop Grumman (NOC.N) RQ-4 Global Hawk, but with inferior engines. The WZ-7 has been seen operating from air bases near the China-India border, the North Korean border and the South China Sea, Wong said.
China has worked hard to improve the performance of its local engines, which have lagged behind Western technology. At the show, it first flew its J-20 fighter jets with Chinese rather than Russian engines.
Tests are also underway for two types of domestic engines for its Y-20 transport plane, the aircraft’s chief designer told the Global Times on Wednesday.
The J-16D electronic warfare fighter, its closest counterpart to the US-made EA-18G Growler, was on display on the ground, exhibiting a capability that experts say could help it erode Taiwan’s air defenses in the event conflict. Read more
Wong said at least three types of jamming modules were hooked to the plane, suggesting that each were designed to disrupt different parts of the electronic spectrum.
China has also revealed that it is looking for a “loyal wing” drone to help protect the more expensive manned fighter jets, in line with rival plans in the United States, Britain, Australia, India and Russia. . Read more
The developer did not say whether this drone, the Feihong FH-97 concept, would be exported, but the presentation was attended by many overseas observers.
THE NEXT BORDERS
China also revealed that it plans to launch its next generation of heavy rockets, powerful enough to send a crewed spacecraft to the moon, in 2028 – two years ahead of schedule. Read more
In commercial jets, China is stepping up efforts to become more self-reliant in key technologies amid trade tensions with the United States.
Aero Engine Corp of China showcased a full-size rotary model of the CJ1000 engine under development for the C919 narrow-body aircraft, which could eventually replace imported CFM International LEAP-1C engines.
The C919 has struggled to meet certification and production targets due to strict U.S. export rules, Reuters reported on Monday, citing sources with knowledge of the situation. Read more
“With an unparalleled domestic market and increasing participation of private investment, it is only a matter of time for China to resolve external technological bottlenecks,” Wang Yanan, editor-in-chief of Aerospace magazine, told the Global Times. Knowledge based in Beijing. History of Reuters.
Western aircraft manufacturers are also finding it increasingly difficult to obtain certification for new models that would compete with aircraft made in China.
The Airbus (AIR.PA) A220, Embraer (EMBR3.SA) E-Jet E2 and ATR 42-600 have yet to be approved by the Chinese aviation regulator although they have been in service elsewhere for years , which hinders the chances of local sales.
Boeing (BA.N), however, said at the show that it was hopeful the 737 MAX would receive approvals for its return to China by the end of the year after being grounded for more than two. years. Read more
Reporting by David Kirton; additional reports by Stella Qiu; additional reporting and writing by Jamie Freed in Sydney. Editing by Gerry Doyle
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