So, I just read an
article on AFCEA
regarding China copying technologies from 956. So, I think I will address this again.

First, let’s address the myth that Russia is no longer willing to sell China advanced weapons, because China is copying off them. James tried to make the point that the Russians are willing to sell products to India that are not available to China. One of his main arguments are the Akulas. The argument doesn’t work in too many ways. Nuclear submarines are not allowed to be exported, so the Indians are only leasing the submarines. Since China already has the capability of designing and building its own nuclear submarines, it makes no sense for the country to lease the submarine for 10 years, pay a fortune and then have to return the submarine. It makes a lot more sense to use that money to continue indigenous development while getting help from outsiders. That’s exactly what China has been doing. With the speed at which 093 and 094 are joining PLAN, it’s clear that China is going down that path. With 095 getting launched in a couple of years, why would China be interested in Akulas? And previous entries have already cut into the notion that China is not getting the military hardware that it wants from the Russians, so I absolutely disagree with this statement.

The Soviet/Russian exporting of modern offensive systems to nations other than China has been obvious over several decades.

Secondly, the entire idea of China copying off the Russians has been overstated. James begin with this quote.

The answer to the question of why China produced only one or two of four recent new guided missile destroyer designs could be that China is trying to gain the capability of producing a 956-type ship so that no more expensive Russian imports would be needed.

I guess 052B could be considered a Chinese version of Sov in someways, but China still has not tried to gain the capability of producing a 956 type ship. The reason why they are only producing 2 of each class is because they are trying to reach the most advanced shipbuilding level in the world. An old design like Sov, that is overrated in every aspect, certainly does not fill that criteria. Anyone who follows PLAN should realize that 052C is a far newer design with a more stealthy hull, CODOG propulsion, a modern AEGIS like air defense system, long range SAMs and a more flexible missile launcher. In fact, the next generation of Chinese DDGs will likely feature more compact systems carrying more missiles in the same load.

Now, let’s move to the part where he claims China is copying all the subsystems off Sov. The first mistake he makes is assuming that anything that have similar exterior are illegal copies. What people seem to always forget is the Sea Eagle radar on 051B. When we first got up-close photos of Sea Eagle on 054A, we noticed that it had different rotating base from Top Plate and had more rows of antenna. Later on, we saw an export poster that showed different versions of Volume search radar. From that poster, it appeared that Sea Eagle on 054A operates on a different band than Top Plate. We also know from past articles that the latest Sea Eagle radar went through the most intensive testing program in PLAN history. Would a cloned radar really need such extensive testing? And with the most recent Sea Eagle being tested on 891, it’s clear that radar is different from Top Plate just by looking at the external appearance. The bandstand looking radar on 054A have also appeared on 052B/C and 051C. Coincidentally, they have also appeared on 891. We know that bandstand is used to support Sunburn on a Russian combat system. Whereas the Sea Soul radar is used to support YJ-83/62 on the Chinese ships. If they are copying something like this, would it be able to work with another combat system and different set of missiles like this? This is also something that they have tested extensively on 891 back when it was still 970. Would they really need to do extensive testing for a cloned system. The FCRs on 054A have also sparked suspicions of cloning from MR-90s. We don’t know what’s inside the cover, but we know the external cover looks similar and that having some sort of FCRs on 054A makes sense. They are suspected to be copied due to their external appearance. I certainly think that cloning is a possible scenario for the FCRs, but there is no proof for this. In fact, he even admitted that the MR-90 like FCR tested on 891 is a domestic version. And we’ve seen more MR-90s on 891 recently being tested with the newest radars. Why would a year long testing period be needed, if it’s already a mature product like MR-90. And if they can develop their own radars, why would they have such a hard time developing FCRs that look like MR-90s. And finally, the claim that 054A uses MGK-335 is also very confounding for me. All we know about 054A is that it has hull mounted sonar with bow mounted dome. There is no evidence right now (other than guesses) that 054A has any kind of towed sonar array. How would anyone outside of China know the origins of the sonar in that dome if it’s not imported from anywhere. As we’ve seen with the sonar suites on the latest Chinese submarines, PLAN certainly doesn’t fancy Russian sonar over its own indigenous developments. There is no evidence at all that 054A’s ASW suite got any Russian help.

And James also conveniently forgets to mention that China received ToT/production rights for AK-176 and AK-630. They also modified these gun systems for domestic use. If they are willing to pay for the guns, why would they not be willing to pay them for the radars? Another point he brought up also counters to his own external shape argument. The VLS cells on 054A look lie MK-41 on Aegis ships and also use hot launch. Does anyone really think that China would have access to MK-41? In spite of this, we still hear claims that HH-16 is a copy of Shtil VLU. Clearly, China is willing to create radar, weapons and launch modules that have similar exterior appearance to existing systems around the world. Due to its familiarity with Russian systems, it certainly makes sense that many such systems look similar to Russian ones. China has certainly shown a willingness to get ToT and license production for things like the diesel engines, gas turbines, guns, torpedoes and sonars. Why then would everything else they develop be copyright infringement suspects? They certainly are used to studying existing systems and developing domestic versions based on lessons learnt from those systems. Would those be classified as illegal copies though?

And even examining some of its accusations toward the Western subsystems is kind of interesting. We’ve already went through the HH-16 VLS. We’ve also noted that the diesel engines and gas turbine are all legally produced under ToT in China. Otherwise, I don’t see why MTU and SEMT would bother doing business with China anymore. The SS-12 sonar and Z-9 definitely got full ToT and licensed production rights from the French. That’s also why China still cooperates with Eurocopter and gets help from the French on sonar. The A244S torpedoes were certainly purchased legally from the Italians and that probably aided in the Yu-7 development. We’ve already discussed in previous post that Type 730 is a combination of ideas from multiple CIWS. To say that it is a copy of Goalkeeper would be ignoring the sensor difference, munition difference and the physical difference of the two naval gun systems. I guess the most blatant violation toward Western countries is the development of the HQ-7/FCR/Type 360 radar combination. Outside of that, I would say China has respected the subsystems that it bought from the Western countries.

At this point, it seems like any new Chinese platform that has physical resemblance to Russian ones will be called stolen copies by the Russians. The Yuan submarine, 054A radar suite, WS-10A, J-11B and a bunch of other systems all got such labels. There is no question that China gained a lot from the Soviet breakup. It got access and ToT to technologies it never had before. It simply could not have gotten the same ToT deals from Western companies, who are probably much better at protecting their own IP. So, China’s military complex benefited greatly from cooperation with the Russians. However, that doesn’t mean it should have to keep on buying Russian products why they are not making the cut. No amount of Russian complaining will change that. Since I don’t see this complaining stopping, this will likely be a major topic on future posts for this blog.