Friday, March 14, 2008

China opens 99A2 MBT to answer Japan new MBT

Just a week after Japan's New TK-X MBT unveiled, China official Internet news portal Xinhuanet (run by Xinhua News Agency) response Japan's behavior to release several images of PLA's latest Type 99A2 MBT.

In 2007, A Chinese magazine published a picture of so-called "Chinese Enhanced Third Generation MBT", which was actually only a technological testing platform based on Type 99 MBT hull. Now these new images clearly showed that the real face of "Enhanced MBT", or Type 99A2, which has been existed for 1-2 years and suffered the rough testing with PLA’s fresh 8*8 wheeled armor vehicle family around China’s inner land.

Unlike Type 99A1's space arrow shaped armor on turret front side, Type 99A2 turret has mounted with exteriorly changed arrow-shaped ERA armor and front hull is covered by flat ERA armor. Despite of the size of ERA armor, Type 99A2 seems to have a larger turret with an expanded tail chamber.

In addition of changed armor, the most distinguished feature is the never seen before Active Protection System (APS) mounted on Type 99A2 turret. Obviously, this device replaces original well-known Type 99 MBT's laser-countermeasure device and is not a simple Chinese copy of Russian "Arena" APS but is a whole new mushroomy system with some unknown antennas on it. Chinese resources indicated that millimeter-wave radar is possibly included in. But the actual working mode and hard-kill methods of Type 99A2 is still unclear.

The commander's periscope scope of Type 99A2 is greatly changed from the previous and looked very close to the appearance and size of the commander observation system of French AMX-56 Leclerc. Chinese resources said that the Type 99A2 in the image is still removed some systems for land testing.

The unseen changes also should be motioned. Type 99A2 almost kicks off previous power and driving system of Type 99 Chassis. Type 99A2 has "Integrated Propulsion System", which is a power module includes 1500HP transverse mounted engine, transmission, cooling system and fuel tank.

In the opened news, the testing staff introduced that the "Enhanced MBT" project has been finalized the design for 5 years and has entered testing for final approval. And it can be presumed that Type 99A2 MBT will enter service in 2009 for welcoming the 60th National Day of PRC birth. From all aspects, the improvement of Type 99A2 MBT is so great that it can be almost determinate as a new type of Main Battle Tank.

Comparing with ROK XK-2 and Japan KT-X, PLA Type 99A2 has its owned features and comparative performance. But the multiple testing conditions and terrains, like high plateau (Tibet), desert, frigid area, cannot be provided in ROK and Japan. And China's MBT exportation to other countries, such as Pakistan and Sudan, also brings rich experience on PLA's MBT development and manufacturing.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

China VIPs congratulate the success of PLA KJ-2000 AWACS

In the middle of February 2008, AVIC-I announced that its one strategic "Key Project" has been successfully and totally completed and the leaders of China and PLA, including President Hu, have send their warm congratulations to this Chinese largest Aviation Manufacture.

This piece of news appeared in the official paper media of Chinese Aviation Industry--"Chinese Aviation Daily", and then was transferred throughout Chinese main web news portals.

Of course, the "Key Project" is not clearly introduced in the opened news. But the salutation from Chinese Top leaders, 4 members of CPC central committee including President Hu Jintao, indicates that the so-called "Key Project" is an strategic aerial weapon system and has great value to PLA. Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Cao Gangchuan even expressed thanks for keeping the honor and dignity of China.

The answer is only one, "Key Project" is PLA C4ISR central role--KJ-2000 AWACS and the success shows that 4 KJ-2000s manufactured by AVIC-I have entered service in PLA Air Force in 2008.

In 2000, China once planned to purchase Israel Phalcon AWACS, but later the deal was terminated by United States. China always considered it as a great shame and initiated its own AWACS project.

Except the congratulations, some interesting truths can be investigated from the news.

In his written felicitate letter, Guo Boxiong, the deputy Chairman of CPC central military Committee, confirm the great achievements of AVIC-I but urged the pushes of later testing for technological maturity. Obviously, the words from General Guo show that PLA's AWACS still has problems although they have entered PLA.

Cao Gangchuan also hoped that related manufactures shall especially focus the quality of system and simultaneously pursue the latest development in aerial early warning systems. His words also proved that the performance of KJ-2000 is not stable because of lots of new technologies involved.

Hong Kong Medias, like Phoenix TV and China Review Agency, quoted this news and added some new contents. It declared that KJ-2000 can detect F-22 in range of 200KM. AVIC-I has no comments on this performance describe but it is generally believed as a sensationalized propaganda.

Although PLA's KJ-2000 has unclear operational capacity and too limited number to be deployed in highly-dangerous area, the extinguished growth of PLA Air Force is need to be focused.

According to a imperfect statistics, now PLA has owned over 450 third generation fighters, including 11 Su-27/J-11/Su-30mkk/Su-30mk2 regiments (270+ fighters, with 24 fighters each regiment), 4 J-10 regiments (96+ J-10) and 4 JH-7/JH-7A regiments(96+ JH-7/A). With the support of KJ-2000 and other systems, PLA is going to grasp the air superiority over all Asian countries.