The on-going aerospace expo in Zhuhai from November 4 to 8 will be remembered for the sheer new types of UAVs, UCAVs and air defence systems—all indigenous—that have been unveiled by China’s gigantic military-industrial complex. No less than three new types of MALE UAVs and an equal number of MALE/HALE UCAVs were showcased at the expo. The most interesting exhibits—however—the indigenous J-10A medium multi-role combat aircraft now in series-production at Chengdu Aircraft Corp’s (CAC) facilities in Chengdu; and scale-models displayed by Russia’s Rosoboronexport State Corp/Sukhoi Aircraft Corp of the Su-35MKK and Su-33MKK heavy multi-role combat aircraft that are due to be acquired by the PLA Air Force and the PLA Navy in the near future. Present plans of the PLA Air Force call for the acquisition of 38 Su-35MKKs whose primary armaments package will include Novator’s KS-172 long-range air combat missile as well as the Yakhont multi-role supersonic cruise missile from NPO Mashinostroineyie. Interestingly, the Yakhonts will be upgraded will an all-digital navigation-and-guidance system developed by Russia’s JSC Konstern Avionika. Therefore, it is now a distinct possibility that the Yakhont-equipped Su-35MKKs will become operational much earlier than the BrahMos-equipped Su-30MKI. The Yakhonts will also be on board the Su-33MKKs, eight of which are on the verge of being ordered by the PLA Navy. These aircraft will also be armed with the 220km-range C-705 subsonic anti-ship cruise missile, which was unveiled by CPMIEC at Airshow China 2008 and which bears a close resemblance to the Novator-built 3M14E Club. The Su-33MKKs will be based at a newly upgraded air base in Inner Mongolia, where a land-based ski-ramp was recently commissioned by the PLA Navy for imparting flying training to the Su-33MKK aircrew.
The J-10A, two of which are giving daily flying displays, will be joined by a tandem-seat J-10B at Chengdu after the conclusion of the expo and these three aircraft will be evaluated by a seven-member team of test-pilots and ground crew hailing from the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), which has already confirmed its intention to procure an initial 34 J-10As and four J-10Bs. The PAF will designate this aircraft-type as the FC-20. The J-10As showcased at Zhuhai are equipped with a comprehensive defensive aids-suite comprising radar warning receivers, missile approach warning system, an internal EW jammer, as well as a SATCOM system used for both communications as well as navigation. In fact, the on-going deployment of the ‘Beidou’ regional constellation of GPS navigation satellites by China has resulted in both the PLA Navy and PLA Air Force beginning to induct in large numbers a variety of GPS-guided precision-guided munitions, including the FT-3 and FT-5 small diameter bombs, LT-3 PGM, and LS-3 glide bomb. Needless to say, such PGMs will also be specified by the PAF for its FC-20s.—Prasun K. Sengupta