The Dragon Muscles In: Growing Number Of Victories In Chinese Arms Exports

Chinese missiles, tanks and drones find foreign buyers

J-20 2101 China Stealth Fighter

Proudly Made in China

Apart from its Russian engines, the J-20 is completely made and designed in China. And even then, future J-20s will be flying with a more powerful domestic engine, the WS-15, by 2021. While the J-20 isn't for sale (yet?), other advanced Chinese weapons are finding eager buyers.Andreas Rupprecht

In line with its increasingly sophisticated domestic arsenal, China's arms exports have become much more technically competitive in the last 10 years; the 2015 U.S. Defense Department's Annual Report on the PLA even stated that China's ground systems in particular are globally competitive or nearly globally competitive. With selling points of low cost and affordable service, lack of geopolitical strings and upgrade packages, China has become the world's third largest arms exporter behind the US and Russia. With a series of recent contracting wins against Russian firms, it looks to expand its market share.

New Arrows for Turkmenistan

New Arrows for Turkmenistan

The Turkmen Army fires a HQ-9 missile during military exercises. A recent purchase by Turkmenistan, the HQ-9 beat out its Russian counterpart, the S-300, to meet Turkmen long-range air defense needs.Turkmen State Television

In April 2016, Turkmen state TV showed footage of the Turkmen military firing its new FD-2000 long-range surface to air missile (SAM) during military maneuvers. The FD-2000, the export version of the HQ-9, is distinguished from its domestic sibling by its hexagonal missile canisters. The latest FD-2000 likely has similar performance to the HQ-9's 200km range and 30km flight ceiling, with capability against both aircraft and ballistic missiles. Footage of the same exercise also showed that Turkmenistan has the medium-ranged HQ-12 SAM as well.

FD-2000 China Turkmenistan HQ-9 SAM

An FD-Grade Match

The Turkmenistan military's new long-range is clearly the FD-2000, the export variant of the HQ-9, with its distinct hexagonal launch canisters.Turkmen State Television

While Turkmenistan's military arsenal is still largely Soviet-era Russian weaponry, the major purchase of strategic Chinese air defense missiles despite the ubiquitous availability of similar Russian systems suggests that Turkmenistan is looking to diversify its defense purchases. Such a move could be driven by unease over Russian activities in Ukraine, as well as China becoming the largest customer of Turkmen natural gas. China's increased economic clout in Central Asia is clearly giving it the ability to smooth over negative Russian reactions to a similar increase in Chinese security clout.

China Kazakhstan CH-4 drone Pterodactyl

Kazakh Pterodactyl

At a Kazakh Air Force open house, Kazakhstan's Chinese made CH-4 UAVs make their debut to the public. While these drones aren't carrying missiles now, their wing-mounted pylons show that they've got the "combat" part of UCAV down.Kazakh State Television

In an even more high profile victory, Kazakhstan has chosen to purchase Pterodactyl WJ-1 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Shown on Kazakh state television, the Pterodactyl was displayed during a Kazakh Air Force open house without weapons, but already equipped with two wing-mounted pylons for anti-tank missiles and small bombs. Built by the Chengdu Aviation Industries Group, the Pterodactyl can carry a payload of 200kg and a powerful camera turret. Given American export restrictions on armed UAVs, and Russia's inability to produce such drones, China is the logical provider for Kazakhstan's unmanned combat needs.

Pterodactyl China Wing Loong Drone Weapons

It Comes With Missiles

The Pterodactyl/WJ-1, seen here at the Zhuhai 2014 Arms Show, can carry over 200kg of anti-tank missiles, satellite-guided bombs, precision rockets and video-guided munitions. Very useful for hunting terrorists or other trouble makers.by87 at Sinodefence Forum

Kazakhstan's larger security strategy involves balancing Russian influence with other foreign countries, like America, China, South Korea and Turkey. In addition to massive Chinese investment, Astana and Beijing both share similar concerns over Islamist militancy, and a wariness over Russia's use of "little green men" in the Ukrainian conflict.

China VT-4 Tank Thailand

VT-4 Main Battle Tank

With a 1300 hp diesel engine and an active protection system option, the VT-4 export tank overcomes historic Chinese armored vehicle weaknesses in propulsion and protection. While similar in price to the Russian T-90, the Royal Thai Army chose the VT-4 as its next tank, with more orders to follow if Bangkok is a happy customer.www.top81.cn

Over in Thailand, the Norinco VT-4 main battle tank (MBT) defeated the Russian T-90 MBT for a $150 million, 28 tank contract for the Royal Thai Army (RTA). If satisfied, the RTA will exercise an option to purchase another 153 VT-4 MBTs. While such a victory may not be such a surprise given that Thailand's two major allies are the United States and China, the RTA has clearly judged the VT-4 to be at least technologically equal to the T-90. The VT-4 is a 53 ton MBT, sharing many technologies such as armor and fire control with the larger ZTZ-99A, China's largest and best tank. Norinco's victory may also be in part due to Thailand's government wishing to solidify security and economic ties with China, though Bangkok has also made a recent effort to improve ties with Russia. China's ability to keep its share of the Thai weapons market in spite of competitive Russian offerings suggests that the Chinese armor industry is addressing historical weaknesses in propulsion, fire control, and protection.

China robot boat swarm

Chinese Third Offset

This concept from September 2015 shows a network of Chinese fast USVs undertaking various tasks, including escort, interdiction of civilian freighters, patrolling offshore assets and working in a system of systems with other unmanned systems, including drones and submersibles, in addition to manned military assets. As Chinese defense exports grow in capability and sophistication, China is likely to offer a "Third Offset" style "system of system" approach with manned and unmanned components, as opposed to single platform solutions.xyz at China Defense Forum

The story of China's growing wins in arms exports is as much about the technology itself as increased economic ties and geopolitical considerations. Both buyer and seller take these into consideration when striking a deal. In turn, the sales can then deepen relationships, as buying weapons also means buying training, upgrades, and technical support over the long term.

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