CHINESE AIR FORCE SPREADS NEW WINGS
Asian Military Review|February/March 2021
China’s military aviation industry has evolved from reverse engineering to indigenous design and development.
JR Ng

Chinese airpower took centre stage in the Asia Pacific in the latter part of 2020, asthe People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) repeatedly entered the Republic of China’s (ROC, commonly Taiwan’s) air defence identification zone (ADIZ). This clearly amounted to a show of force intended to erode not just Taiwanese resolve in resisting Beijing but also the smaller and less well-resourced Republic of China Air Force’s (RoCAF’s) ability to generate airpower.

The PLAAF show of force reached its peak on 18 September midway through a three-day official visit by US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, Keith Krach. As many as 18 aircraft – including Xian H-6 strategic bombers, singleengine Chengdu J-10 and twin-engine Shenyang J-11 and J-16 multirole combat aircraft – split into five groups which then carried out sorties to the northwest of Taiwan and in the southwest portion of the ADIZ, with some crossing over the median line in the Taiwan Strait.

The next day, another 19 PLAAF aircraft – comprising bombers, combat and patrol aircraft – flew six sorties to an area off Taiwan’s northwest and the southwest section of its ADIZ, with several aircraft again flying over the median line.

According to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), China has perpetrated more than 4,400 intrusions into the ADIZs of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan since 2013, with Chinese military aircraft often flying routes that consecutively transgress the ADIZs of those countries and pressure their respective air forces.

The PLAAF’s aggressive modernisation since the 1990s, initially fuelled by Russian combat aircraft and weapon imports but now underpinned by new and increasingly capable indigenous systems, have significantly shifted the aerial balance of power in East Asia and places it in a favourable position to challenge Japanese, South Korean, Taiwanese, and even US regional airpower.

Air superiority State-owned Chinese military aerospace companies have made some remarkable advancements over the past 20 years, moving up the value-chain from adapting or reverse engineering Soviet and Russian aircraft technology to developing indigenous platforms.

China’s military aerospace ambition can be seen in a growing number of local designs, starting from the singleengine Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) J-10 ‘Menglong’ (Vigorous Dragon) multirole combat aircraft which was developed during the 1980s by the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) and entered PLAAF service in 2003. The initial model, the J-10A, was superseded by the improved J-10B with a redesigned airframe and more powerful Russian-made Salyut AL-31FN Series 3 engine which in 2013 provided 134.4kN of thrust.

In terms of radar and avionics, the J-10B has also benefited from a passive electronically scanned array (PESA) version of the original mechanically scanned KLJ-3 radar developed by the Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET), an electro-optical targeting suite comprising an infrared search and track (IRST) and laser rangefinder, as well as a rear-aspect missile approach warning system (MAWS).

The latest variant of the J-10 is the J-10C, which made its maiden flight in December 2013 and entered service in April 2018. The J-10C features a new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar of unknown designation, improved avionics including a new datalink for the PL-15 beyond visual range anti-air missile (BVRAAM).

Ultimately, more than 600 J-10s are expected to enter service with the PLAAF to eventually replace the ageing CAC J-7 fighter-bombers, which entered service in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

CAC has also developed the twin-engine J-20 Weilong (Mighty Dragon), a single-seat multirole fighter with low-observability features such as twin, outward-canted, serrated edge landing gear doors, equipped with a chin-mounted electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) that appears to be comparable to the one found on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM ASIAN MILITARY REVIEWView All

SMART MUNITIONS INCREASE MARKET SHARE

Top attack munitions are now widely developed for different artillery calibers with varied ranges.

10 mins read
Asian Military Review
June/July 2021

NEXT GEN NVGS - A CLEAR IMPROVEMENT

Fused and enhanced night-vision technology will make the difference to soldiers fighting at night.

8 mins read
Asian Military Review
June/July 2021

MILITARY ROTORCRAFT DEVELOPMENT - NO MORE ‘STOVEPIPES'

New rotorcraft are going to come with new abilities founded on open systems that provide easier upgrade paths and cheaper through life costs.

8 mins read
Asian Military Review
June/July 2021

INDO PACIFIC UAV DIRECTORY 2021

The development of unmanned aerial vehicles is growing apace, especially in China. New longer range ISR platforms are also on the procurement list of several nations.

10+ mins read
Asian Military Review
June/July 2021

TIME TO RESET TRILATERAL RELATIONS

United States President Joe Biden has made it a top priority of his Administration to repair and re-energize global alliances during its first year in power. This is a necessary strategic and political calculus made in light of growing global security, public health, and environmental challenges that will require cooperation and multilateral contributions. President Trump’s ‘America first’ policy did much to undermine confidence in such relationships over his time in office.

3 mins read
Asian Military Review
June/July 2021

SOCPAC KEEN TO SHARE JOINT DOCTRINE AND TRAINING

The return of Great Power competition means that US SOCPAC is more than ever seeking joint training opportunities with regional special forces.

9 mins read
Asian Military Review
June/July 2021

MARINE ENGINE POWER - NOT JUST ABOUT KNOTS

Navies not only want more engine power, there are also coming under increasing pressure to become environmentally conscious.

9 mins read
Asian Military Review
June/July 2021

AMPHIBIOUS FORCES

New amphibious concepts are re-shaping marine forces to break the A2AD defensive line.

9 mins read
Asian Military Review
June/July 2021

SPACE V AIRBORNE ISR OR MIX AND MATCH

Owning satellite based ISR for military use is still an exclusive ‘club’, but airborne ISR still provides that most countries need.

9 mins read
Asian Military Review
April/May 2021

SHIPBUILDING - A NUMBERS GAME

While experience grows among Indo-Pacific naval designers, order numbers remain crucial to keeping costs down and yards in business.

10+ mins read
Asian Military Review
April/May 2021
RELATED STORIES

Bullying Tactics

China is trying to force trading partners to toe its line on Taiwan. The U.S. and EU must fight back

5 mins read
Newsweek
January 28 - February 04, 2022

REPORT: MANDATORY OLYMPIC APP HAS SERIOUS SECURITY FLAWS

A smartphone app that athletes and others attending next month’s Winter Games in Beijing must install has glaring security problems that could expose sensitive data to interception, according to a report published this week.

2 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #534

Same City - Different Games

What’s changed since Beijing last held the Olympics? Almost everything

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 24, 2022

Boxed In on China

Biden’s inability to extract concessions from Beijing is a liability going into November’s midterms

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 24, 2022

The Hottest Kitchen Tip? Freezing

FOOD for Thought

2 mins read
Reader's Digest US
February 2022

TAIWAN CHIPMAKER TSMC SAYS QUARTERLY PROFIT $6 BILLION

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the biggest contract manufacturer of processor chips, reported Thursday its quarterly profit rose 16.4% over a year earlier to $6 billion amid surging demand for chips for smartphones and other electronics.

1 min read
Techlife News
15, January 2022

Wall Street Digs In To China

U.S. politicians are taking a tougher line on the country, but bankers say they have to be there

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 10, 2022

CHINA'S QUEST TO TAKE TAIWAN

CHINESE OFFICIALS HAVE started directing citizens to stock up on food amid rising vegetable, egg, and pork prices. Encouraging people to become preppers could just be how the Chinese government expresses concern about cold snaps and potential future COVID-19 lockdowns. But some fear it’s a more sinister sign, indicating that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wants people to prepare for the growing threat of war.

3 mins read
Reason magazine
February 2022

The Jail Money Trap

The Museum of Chinese in America was desperate to buy its building. The city found a reason to pay for it— one that threw Chinatown into a years-long fight.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
December 20, 2021 - January 02, 2022

Tesla Takes Its Critics to Court

Chinese customers and bloggers who complain about its cars are increasingly the targets of lawsuits

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
December 20, 2021