Smart Munitions on the Internet Honor Roll
NORINCO, the main manufacturer of Chinese group weapons, recently revamped its website to attract foreign buyers for a wide range of modern ground weapons that the 2012 Pentagon Report called “increasing in global competitiveness”. The GS-1 155mm ammunition deserves special mention: it drops multiple infrared guided bombs that home in on tank engine’s infrared signatures. As proud owners of Chinese 155mm cannons, American allies Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are among the likely targets, ironically for potential use against tank forces of Iran, which is closer to China.
ZH-05- the iPhone of smart grenades?
The ZH-05 makes its stage debut after pulling combat duty on Chinese anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden. While the computerized targeting system, underslung assault rifle and the 20 mm “smart” grenade launcher gives the ZH-05 a passing resemblance the experimental XM-29 and South Korean K-11 smart grenade launchers, it’s actually a whole different beast. Unlike its American and Korean doppelgangers, its single shot, bolt action grenade launcher makes it easy to switch between mission specific ammunition, just like the ubiquitous M203 grenade launcher slung under M-16 rifles.
** “2011”****, Third and Improved J-20 Prototype, takes to the Sky**
The long awaited third prototype, number “2011”, first flew on February 28, 2014. What was notable is that the test plane had modified air intakes, suggesting not just likely developmental progress, but that it is equipped with potentially different engines from the 2001 and 2002 prototypes. Another key improvement is the installation of a stealthy targeting pod. This appears to be similar in function to the F-35’s Electro-optical Targeting System. 2011 also has redesigned weapons bay and landing gear doors, which was probably done to improve its stealthiness. The appearance of the 2011 also suggests that the J-20 is on schedule for an initial operating capability of 2017-2019, not much soon after the F-35.
Blue Whale becomes star for a day
A CCTV documentary showed a model of the Blue Whale at AVIC’s China Helicopter Research Institute; a model first appeared at the 2nd Chinese Helicopter Exhibition in September 2013. Its television debut suggests that the Blue Whale, a 500 mph, 20 ton payload four engine tilt rotor aircraft with a 815km range, is becoming a full scale development project. Given planned Sino-Russian cooperation for a heavy vertical takeoff aircraft, the Blue Whale may be the first in joint Shanghai Cooperation Organization military research. If operational, the Blue Whale could offer capabilities akin to a larger version of the US MV-22 Osprey. One scenario would be to quickly deploy light tanks behind enemy lines, making airborne assaults against Taiwan many times more effective.
Shanghai Cooperation Organization aims for the jet set
Mikhail Pogoysan, President of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), announced that UAC is partnering with China to launch a widebody airliner by 2025. Mr. Pogoysan’s announcement follows Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dimitry Rogozin’s 2012 declaration that China and Russia would cooperate on developing a new jumbo jet. In addition to improving UAC and COMAC’s competitiveness against the A-330 and B-787 of the Airbus-Boeing duopoly, a Sino-Russian jumbo jet has its military selling points. The jumbo jet would make for a more fuel efficient aerial tanker compared to converted transports like the Il-76 and Y-20, while also offering the potential to carry larger electronic warfare and signal collection suites.
Going green, blasting off to hypersonic and there’s a robot space shuttle too!
While current Chinese aviation projects such as the Y-20 transport and J-20 stealth fighter take most of the limelight, new releases on the internet show that Chinese industry is also looking to a longerterm vision. The Northwestern Polytechnic University (NWPU) in Xi’an, China is one of the preeminent hubs in Chinese aerospace research. Recently, a graphic on the NWPU website gave an overview of germinating long lead research programs under the Project 0901 initiative. China is making a concerted effort on cutting edge research that includes a trans-atmospheric spaceplane drone, 6th generation fighter, hyper efficient blended wing jumbo jet and hypersonic engines going into Mach 10.
Bigger can be Better… when Probing the Seabed
While many in US military circles believe that China has not focused on anti-submarine warfare, choosing to concentrate on American carriers, recent news shows this not to be the case. Originating from a French transport design, the Z-18 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter under went testing in February 2014. Being twice as large the preceding Z-9 helicopter, the Z-18 offers the potential of a large periscope hunting radar, sensitive sonars, torpedoes, depth charges, sonarbuoys and crew. The large size of the Z-18 would restrict its usage to the Liaoning aircraft carrier and 071 amphibious warship for now, but if adopted, the Z-18 ASW helicopter’s long range would extend the protection area of Chinese surface ships against enemy submarines.
Chinese Boomer Family Reunion held in Resort Island
All three Jin class Type 094 nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) gathered at the Sanya naval base on balmy tropical island of Hainan, possibly for advanced crew training before undertaking extended operations. The Type 094 SSBNs are China’s primary SSBN, each can carry 12 of the 7,200km ranged JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM), which completed testing last year. It is expected that future iterations of the JL-2 will be able to strike large portions of the American mainland. An Office of Naval Intelligence analyst remarked that the 094 could begin deterrent patrols in 2014, which would mark a historical first for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
An Amphibious Adventure Around Australia
In early February 2014, a PLAN taskforce of one 071 landing platform dock, a 052B and 052C guided missile destroyers conducted amphibious assault and fleet defense exercises in the east Indian Ocean, near Indonesia and Australia. These maneuvers included the deployment of one LCAC and three helicopters, as well as weapons firing. While the eastern Indian Ocean deployment does not mean that the PLAN is now capable of projecting power in the Indian Ocean through amphibious combat expeditions, it demonstrates increased Chinese confidence in PLAN abilities to support combat landings, with attendant implications for maritime disputes closer to home. Incidentally, the English edition of the People’s Daily described the exercise as “confrontation training,” which did not assure the Australian press.
MISSILE AND SPACE
WU-14 Hypersonic Glider Flies Twice
The Chinese military establishment started 2014 off with a bang, flying hypersonic gliders twice in January; such rapid testing shows that hypersonic technology is a key Chinese military priority. Hypersonic gliders have increased maneuverability and lower flight paths compared to ballistic missiles, which increase their range, accuracy and survivability against missile defenses. Operational versions of the WU-14 would be a threat to United States Navy (USN) aircraft carriers and allied bases. Conventional hypersonic gliders could be launched on the next generation DF-3X medium/intermediate range missile, with its 5,500km range, to hit Alaska and Hawai’i.
One small satellite for research, one big leap for modern Chinese satellites
After 10,000 hours of operations since 2012, China successfully completed testing the XIPS-20 xenon gas ion thruster onboard the Shijian 9 science satellite. The drive itself had only a diameter of 200mm and weighs 140 kilograms. The primary advantage of an ion drive is that despite its low thrust compared to chemical engines, the high efficiency of its plasma exhaust uses up less fuel, thus reducing the amount of propellant needed by satellites for keeping orbit. In addition to propelling deep space exploration, small diameter ion drives are used to reduce weight on satellites, especially mini-satellites used for space situational awareness (spying on foreign satellites) and potentially less friendly applications.