So, as mentioned in the last post, there is news coming out regarding Russia being upset over China’s imitation of flankers. Of course, the great PLA expert Andrei Chang decided to weigh in on this. Keep in mind, he has great relations with a lot of the Russian exporters, so he sides with the Russians a lot in this debate.
The article can be found here. It says the following.
HONG KONG, China, China’s production of J-11B fighters using Russian technology has become the latest bone of contention in the military cooperation between the two countries, following prolonged problems over an IL-76 transport aircraft deal.
An authoritative source from the Russian military industry says that Russia has officially notified China that the latter’s production of J-11B fighters is a violation of the original agreement between the two sides. If Russia cannot get a satisfactory response from China, it reserves the right to take legal action to protect its property rights, the source said.
Many sources from the Russian military industry are upset over China’s production of J-11B fighters. According to the Su-27SK Fighter Technology Transfer Agreement reached between China and Russia in 1995, Russia would supply to China first 95 then an additional 105 sets of parts to assemble Su-27 fighters. The domestic production of the Su-27SKs was to proceed with assistance from the Russian side through the transfer of technology.
The agreement explicitly outlined the specific areas of technology transfer and the corresponding schedule. In the course of assembling the planned 200 Su-27SKs, all the core component parts including the engines, radar systems and avionics equipment was to be supplied by the Russian company. Russia had already made preparations in 2004 for the delivery of 105 sets of parts for assembly and all the related equipment had been put in place.
Right from the start, the Russians noticed that China’s practices were very different from those of India, with whom they were also conducting military technology transfers.
In the first place, the Chinese were very sensitive, and exhibited a strong distrust for their Russian counterparts. Russians were not allowed in the production workshops of the J-11 fighters.
Later in 2004, the Chinese abruptly notified the Russians that they no longer needed the 105 sets of Su-27 components. They complained that the fighter’s radar technology was out of date. The Russians therefore upgraded 70 Su-27SKs and a small number of J-11s with RVV-AE active radar guided air-to-air missiles. The Russians proposed the same upgrade for the remaining batch of 105 sets of parts, but China did not respond.
Around the same time, a series of incidents occurred in which Chinese nationals attempted to acquire Su-27SK component parts and production blueprints through illegal means. They were caught in the Russian Far East by the Federal Anti-espionage Agency, according to one Russian source.
From 2005, China imported a number of AL-31F engines and some other parts, saying they needed them for repairs on the fighters. Soon after that, the Russians discovered that the Shenyang Aircraft Company was manufacturing a fighter called the J-11B. Though the Chinese claimed it was a newly designed aircraft, Russian experts believed the J-11B was an exact imitation of the Su-27SK. The Chinese had violated the terms of the technology transfer agreement by creating their own indigenous version of the Russian aircraft.
This is similar to what occurred with regard to the Z-10 combat helicopter China built after importing engines from Canada, claiming they were to be used for civilian helicopters.
The Russian military industry has not made clear what legal action it will take if it is convinced that China violated Russian intellectual property rights. However, a civil aviation technology analyst based in Moscow says that the J-11B incident will surely have a major impact on cooperation between China and Russia in the aviation industry.
Russia is now conducting a full assessment of the importance of the Chinese arms market to the Russian military industry. Some analysts believe that Russia is already switching its priority to other markets because of China’s failure to fulfill its commitments. Under this circumstance, the likelihood that Russia will export Su-35 and Su-33 fighters to China is growing smaller. New obstacles may also interrupt the export of additional AL-31F engines and Su-27SK component parts to China.
Russia’s economic recovery in the past few years means that money is no longer the only consideration in deciding where to export its military technology.
Even if Russia imposes sanctions against China over the production of the J-11B fighters, production of the aircraft is unlikely to be affected. China has already imported what it needs from Russia, including 180 AL-31F engines that will arrive later this year. Also, since beginning the J-11B production, China has reinforced its cooperation with the Ukrainian and Belarus aviation industries.
An upgrade of the Su-27SK’s avionics equipment was assisted by technology from the Minsk No. 558 Factory, while the Ukrainian Migremont Factory helped China in the repair and maintenance of fuselages. A chart showing the production of the J-11B on open display at the 2006 Zhuhai Air Show revealed that already 80 percent of its parts were manufactured domestically.
A source from the Chinese aviation industry said the Shenyang Aircraft Company suffers from low production efficiency, unlike the Chengdu Aircraft Company, which has received a series of domestic awards. The Chengdu company has already manufactured 120 J-10A fighters. It had been building J-7Es until 2007, but that production line will be officially closed within this year so as to put full attention to the manufacture of additional J-10As. A second J-10A production line is expected.
The above information suggests that due to low production efficiency, the first phase production of J-11Bs is intended mainly to meet the demand of the PLA Air Force. The possibility that China will export the aircraft is very slim. This is what concerns Russia. Under the original Su-27SK production transfer agreement, the 200 J-11 fighters should not be exported to any third country. Yet Russia suspects that China’s intention in suspending the J-11 production agreement ahead of time is to develop the J-11B export market independently.
First, I’d like to address the issue of the AL-31F engine. There is no doubt in my mind that most if not all of those engines are going to the existing fleet of Russian flankers. The fact is that AL-31F have really short service life, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that China needs a large order of this engine as replacements for the ones on the existing aircrafts. The other issue is that production rate of WS-10A has reached the point where China simply doesn’t need to buy AL-31F for new J-11Bs. If the flanker production rate is 17 per year as Pinkov previously stated, then having mass production of WS-10A should more than cover that + a portion of J-10s. And it’s no secret that the Russians have been following the progress of J-11B development as much as they can. Earlier this year, one of the big shrimps stated that Russians accidentally saw the J-11B production lines and were surprised by the tooling and quality of the fighters. It was to the point that they decided to cut off on the supply of parts to China. This did not actually cripple J-11B program, but simply helped the domestic industry which was previously denied due to the powerful middlemen who were making money off the export transactions.
So, why now? Of course, the official explanation is that China is violating the terms of the agreement and that they are going to export to other countries. But in reality, it doesn’t appear that China has any intention exporting a fighter that they can’t get enough of. In fact, one of the problems of PLA is that SAC can’t produce enough to supply both the navy and the air force. I’m not sure if this is a problem with SAC as mentioned by Pinkov or a problem with the suppliers. Either way, with China’s need for strike fighters and naval fighters, SAC won’t be looking at any export orders for a while. Even the big shrimps on Chinese bbs have mentioned that China can’t even export the original su-27sk without Russian approval. As for the other violation, it’s clear at this point that China has yet to even reach the original goal of 200 flankers. They produced 95 J-11s with various degrees of Russian contents. We’ve probably had at most 20 J-11Bs so far. So, the Russians are simply complaining because they are not getting the money from China ordering their parts for the aircraft. This is really ridiculous, since what Russians are willing to offer to China (N-001VE) is so outdated. Of course, they are not willing to offer the more advanced Irbis radar, because they want China to buy su-35 straight up. So, if they are not willing to offer avionics and engines that are up to par (compared to indigenous production), what right do they have to complain that China is using their own (and more advanced) avionics? The Russians must know all of this. Why are they still complaining? Well, they know they are not going to get any more orders for su-33/35 from China (despite what they are claiming to Pinkov) after seeing the success of J-11 program, so they are simply trying to get any money they can from China at this point. The threat of discontinuing military cooperations is certainly not going to scare that many people in PLA. In fact, it has been China that has canceled those annual meetings due to the problems with the IL-76 contract.
The other interesting news I got today is about Bangladesh’s military cooperation with China. They talked about increasing the cooperation in military and nuclear field. However, a previous deal between the two sides caught my attention today. This is regarding to the deal where Bangladesh bought C-802A and FM-90n. It’s well known that C-802 series is one of the best selling military export items for China. The list of countries getting C-802 or ToT for C-802 includes Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, Algeria, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar. The range of C-802 has increased with each evolution. When it came out, it was at 120 km. A couple of years ago, they came out with C-802A, which had a range of 180 km. Then a few months later, the Iranian C-802 mods were said to have a range of 200 km. And this article actually puts the range of C-802 at 120 to 140 NM, which is close to the MTCR limit. For a light weight missile like C-802, it’s quite an accomplishment to be able to go that far. One can use this to gage the range of YJ-83 and KD-88. Of course, there are more important requirements than just range, but this certainly casts a good light on the Chinese Military Industry. And as more navies around the world start to use C-802 and FM-90N, we will probably see more of them also buying ships from China. The article is as follows:
Text of report headlined “Navy to test-fire new missile next week”
published by Bangladeshi newspaper Prothom Alo on 28 April
Bangladesh Navy is to test-fire the C-802 missile imported from China
next week. The missile will be launched from the naval frigate “BNS
Osman” on 4 May to a target 140 nautical miles in the sea. For this
the navy has taken all cautionary measures and instructed all to
follow its instructions. A meeting with all other relevant government
agencies and departments was held on Thursday [24 April].
According to sources, this is the first such test-fire of missiles in
Bangladesh. Instructions have been given to relevant authorities to
keep away ships coming from Singapore, Colombo (Sri Lanka) and
Malaysia from the route where the test-fire will take place. And it
has asked for anchoring arrangements of those ships in the outer
According to naval sources, among the six frigates of Bangladesh Navy,
BNS Osman and BNS Khalid Bin Walid (formerly known as BNS Bangabandhu)
have facilities to launch missiles. Till now BNS Osman, collected from
China in 1989, was equipped with SY-1 Alpha type missile. This missile
of 1988 model can hit targets at a distance of 35 nautical miles.
C-802 and FM-90 types of missiles have been imported from China by
Bangladesh Navy as part of its modernization. These missiles can hit
targets at a distance of 120 nautical miles. Missile launching
technology of BNS Osman has been upgraded. FM-90 missiles have been
imported for BNS Khalid Bin Walid.