Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Building Aerial Strategy Platform: China's Future Airlifter to be assembled in Xi'an

In August, news from COSTIND website showed that Zhang Yunchuan, minister of COSTIND(Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defense), recently visited Xi'an Aircraft Industry Group for inspecting the proceeding of Heavy Airlift Assembly Line Construction. His visit indicated that the Final Assembly Line of PLA future Heavy Airlift has been obtained by Xi'an Aircraft Industry Group, which is the manufacturer of well-known JH-7A attack fighter.

China's aspiration for large Air Transporter is pursued in both ways of military and civilian uses. The civilian aircraft, is to satisfy the boom of China's future civilian air transportation. Provinces with Aviation Industries, such as Shanghai, Shanxi, Tianjin, Sichuan,etc, all aim the Large Jet Plane or Heavy Airlift as a great opportunity to upgrade their industrial and economic system. ACAC(AVIC I Commercial Aircraft Company), based in Shanghai, became the developer and manufacturer of ARJ21, a 70-80 seats class regional Jet. ARJ21 is seen as China's first step in 100 ton class civilian aircraft. And in 2006, An A-320 final assembly line project was introduced in Tianjin.

Being an inland military Aircraft and Electronic Industries base, Shanxi had been in embarrassed position since Tianjin and Shanghai's rising in aircraft manufacturing. Shangxi local authority even urged "Input Provincial Power to get the project of Heavy Transport Aircraft". Now Shanxi is seemed to realize its final goal. ShanXi province and Xi'an city will use this occasion to speed the military industrial base development in Western area of China inland.

The military heavy airlift is defined by administration as "National Significant Project", not as usual "National Key Project". In fact some Chinese resources showed that China central government has counted military airlifter as a future strategic military system and a crucial decision for fully waking China's Aviation Industries in next decade.

In his visit, Minister Zhang urged that the R&D on Heavy Airlifter should be based on the mature and reliable technologies, but its performance can approach the international advanced transport aircraft with Chinese independent innovative technologies. From his words, it can be summarized that China's future Military Heavy Airlifter Prototype will be designed on Russia's IL-76MD. But China's airlift aircraft will has an expanded size and payload capacity, and then equipped with 4 high-Bypass ratio turbofan engines (from FWS-10), improved electronic devices.

In general, PLA's next generation lifter will exceed Russia's IL-76 and Japan SDF's being developed C-X transport aircraft and be close up to the "Globalmaster III". PLA’s Heavy Lifter’s Possible Specifications can be described as below:
Crew: 3
Payload Capacity: 60,000-65000 kg
Length: 49 m
Wingspan: 50 m
Height: 15 m
Wing area: 310 m2
Empty weight: 100,000 kg
Max takeoff weight: 220,000 kg
Power: 4× Chinese-made High-bypass turbofans
Maximum speed: 750-800 km/h
Range: (with max payload) 4,400 km
Service ceiling: 13,000 m

For years, Xi'an Aircraft Industry Group has been absorbing foreign aviation technologies and QC(Quality Control) & QA(Quality assurance) measurements by industrial subcontracting with Boeing and Airbus. Meanwhile, AVIC I is preparing the correspondent attached technological projects. Such as CARDC (China Aerodynamics Research & Development Center) has achieved breakthrough in "Turbofan Engine low-speed Simulating Testing Technologies" for Airlifter high bypass engine. Besides, in 2008 China's research on Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) based carbon fibers will reach its milestone to produce high-performance aviation materials. PLA's future heavy airlifter will realize the shrunk aircraft empty weight by CF Compound Material made fuselage and wings.

The strategic value of China's Heavy Airlifter, is not only the great improvement PLA's forces long distance projection, but also an air platform for China's New concept Strategic Weapon System. A great conventional weapon gap between PLA and U.S. forces usually shrivels China leaders’ purpose of taking Taiwan back by forces. So Heads in China Government has been focusing on unconventional "Shashoujian" weapon system for strategic striking back.

Now PLA is very interested to Boeing ABL project and FALCON Small Launch Vehicle. Resources in PLA unleashed that the future heavy transportation aircraft will play as important air platform in fighting against with U.S. advanced stealth fighter and cruise missiles. It can be speculated that High-power microwave weapon and some kind of directed energy weapon will be installed on aircraft to jam and destroy air objects, like F-22, F-35 or Tactical Tomahawk.. Base on technological obstacle, Chinese air platform can not use COIL laser for anti-ballistic missile but will have compact laser self-defense system to defend enemy air-to-air missiles.

Like FALCON program tested on U.S. Air Force C-17, China's transport aircraft will become a rocket or ballistic missile aerial launching platform. China has demonstrated its air-launched ballistic missile in 2006 Zhuhai Airshow. In a possible conflict with U.S. in west pacific, PLA will have more striking options by strategic aerial platform, such as anti-craft carrier ballistic missile or anti-satellite space weapon.

1 comment:

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