PLA Air Force Overview 2010
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PLA Air Force Overview 2010

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Recently at an air power conference hosted by RAND Corporation in Taiwan, the former head of Air Force intelligence provided a wide-ranging overview on the evolution of Chinese military power, ...

Recently at an air power conference hosted by RAND Corporation in Taiwan, the former head of Air Force intelligence provided a wide-ranging overview on the evolution of Chinese military power, focusing on the air element. Second Line of Defense is providing a slideshow of his slides, and conducted an interview with him to provide a basic narrative concerning the presentation.

In the piece to be posted soon on http://www.sldinfoc.com , the General provides his explanation of the evolution of Chinese programs and capabilities, and in a second piece, a dialogue with Second Line of Defense’s Robbin Laird with the General discusses the question of the nature of the Chinese challenge.
As Deptula summarized: The PRC used to have lots and lots of airplanes, thousands and thousands, but they were not qualitatively that good. Well now they’re transitioning very rapidly from just quantity to a qualitative force with sufficient quantities that will be very complex and pose significant combat challenges for the U.S. and its allies."

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  • China today is focusing on developing key technological areas while it buys, borrows or steals the technology it needs to integrate into its own defense industrial base. No where is that more evident than in the area of the PLA Air Force, and PLA Naval Air Force. This briefing is summary of what the PLA are up to in these two critical organizations to their growth toward major world power status. To put these services in perspective, the PLA AF currently consists of approximately 330,000 personnel and 2,500+ aircraft of which over 1,600 are combat aircraft. This makes the PLAAF the largest air force in Asia , and the third largest in the world behind the United States Air Force and the Russian Air Force. PLA Naval Aviation has 26,000 personnel and 570 aircraft (290 combat aircraft).   In the arena of aerospace, China is catching up with us in many areas, and exceeding us in others leveraging stolen US technology, along with purchased Israeli, Russian, and European technology.  They remain comparable to us in what might be termed the mainstream fighter force… [for example, the J-10 is basically comparable to a Block 40 F-16 or F/A-18C/D], but they are building sufficient numbers of aircraft with significant asymmetric capabilities to counter the US in the event of a Western Pacific confrontation. In particular, there is a growing emphasis on the offensive in the PLA AF and growing recognition of the PLA AF as a strategic force, and dominance in air and space forces required to be decisive in any conflict.     This is the same direction the Russians have chosen, and where the Iranians and Indians are trying to go -- dominate their "near abroad" to secure their role as the regional hegemon against all comers by making outsiders' intrusions too risky/costly.  
  • Undergoing a real transformation…. Moving from a force that relied on quantitative advantage to one that aspires to achieve a qualitative advantage with sufficient quantity to dominate in their immediate region. … and they are doing it rapidly…at a recent conference in Taiwan on the PLA AF, it was agreed that the PLA AF has achieved 4 decades of progress in less than 20 years…..
  • The F-10 is the first real indigenously designed and produced fighter by the PRC. Although the existence of the F-10 was long reported both inside and outside of China, the Chinese government did not officially admit the existence of the aircraft until January 2007, when the first photographs of it were allowed to be published to the public. The aircraft were first delivered to the 13th Test Regiment in February 2003. The aircraft was given the status 'operational' in December of the same year.
  • The newest FB-7 airframe is lighter and stronger than that of the original FB-7 variant, giving it a maximum armament load of 9000 kg, compared to the Sukhoi Su-24 and Su-30 at 8000 kg and the General Dynamics F-111 at 11,000 kg. As it is lighter and less complex than the variable geometry wing Su-24 and F-111 or the multi-role Su-30, the FB-7 is considerably cheaper to produce and operate. Although it does not have the air-to-air performance of the Su-30, its range is greater. The FB-7 in PLA AF service has no significant aerial combat role, since large quantities of specialized aircraft are available for that purpose. The FB-7 represents a significant strike capability for the PLA NAF and its load capacity allows the aircraft to 4 domestically-made YJ-82 anti-ship missiles in maritime strike operations.
  • The  JF-17 Thunder  is also designated  Chengdu FC-1  Thunder Dragon . It is a single-engine, light-weight multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Chengdu Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAC) of China, the Pakistan Air Force and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). It ’s designated as "JF-17" by Pakistan, which is short for "Joint Fighter-17" and as "FC-1" by China, which is short for "Fighter China-1". The JF-17 was developed primarily to meet the requirements of the Pakistan Air Force for a low-cost, medium-technology, multi-role combat aircraft as a cost-effective replacement for its ageing mixed fleet of  Nanchang A-5 , Chengdu F-7P/PG and Mirage III/V fighters and also have export potential to air forces of other developing countries as a cost-effective alternative to hi-tech but expensive Western fighters.
  • PLA NAF is a reflection of what the PLA AF possesses adapted for maritime operations.
  • Transport Aircraft Co., whose main assets are the civil factories at Xi'an, Chengdu and Shenyang. The original Avic subsidiaries in those cities have been dismantled to create the new company, with their military plants assigned separately. Importantly, this unit is not responsible for the ARJ21 and future large jetliner projects, except as a supplier. That's crucial because it cannot be tied exclusively to the ARJ21's builder, Comac. Transport Aircraft needs to compete for work with Airbus, Boeing and other foreign aircraft makers. Defense Division, which so far remains a direct part of Avic, not a subsidiary company. Its assets include combat aircraft manufacturers Chengdu and Shenyang, stripped of their civil plants, along with Xi'an military assets that have been peeled away from Transport Aircraft. The Hongdu military business is also included. Avicopter, which brings together the country's rotary-wing plants, notably those at Harbin, Changhe and Jingdezhen. Aviation Engine Industry Corp. Ltd, which combines propulsion plants and research centers at Liming, Xi'an, Chengdu and Zhuzhou, as well as the Gas Turbine Establishment at Jiangyou. General Aviation Co., now the owner of facilities at Guizhou and Shijiazhuang. The company is looking at building a business jet of about the size of a Challenger 850. Aviation Systems Co., China's answer to Rockwell Collins, Thales, Honeywell and Goodrich. About 40 factories and research institutes have been combined to form the company, including major facilities at Shanghai, Xi'an and Nanjing. Avic executives say that their detached relationship with Comac is an example of how the six new units will eventually be cast off, depending on how quickly they can improve their efficiency. A principle of the restructuring is that existing programs stay where they are, even if they don't fit with the specialization of the new company. For example, Harbin Aircraft, a helicopter maker, also builds general aviation aircraft, which it has taken into Avicopter.
  • To wrap things up. China is set on regaining what it believes is it ’s rightful place as one of the world’s great powers. They believe that a time will soon come when the major global institutions are no longer dominated by the United States. The growth of their economy has fueled China’s reemergence on the world stage, but they are seeking the other necessary elements of comprehensive national power, including a world-class military. In order to make this happen, China as a nation has undergone a transformation of historic proportions. Changes that took the US and Europe more than a hundred years, have happened over the course of 30 years. This has placed tremendous stress on the fabric of Chinese society. The PLA has undergone a similar transformation. Over the course of the past 20 years, they have gone from a massive peasant army – something a noted China scholar referred to as the “Junkyard Army” – into an military with aspirations to develop global capabilities. Finally, it is important to note that the PLA ’s perception of the US military has also changed over the course of the past 20 years. Once viewed as the Gold Standard which should be emulated, the US military is now viewed as a potential adversary who’s strengths and weaknesses are analyzed, and capabilities are developed specifically to counter US capabilities.
  • China, by comparison, is experiencing a surge in aircraft production, particularly for their fighter and fighter/bomber fleets. They are also expanding into the co-production market, building the JF-17/Thunder tactical fighter with Pakistan.
  • As the bulk of the Chinese combat fleet is older-generation aircraft, the PRC continues an ambitious program of upgrading these aircraft to provide improved capabilities which will make them viable until replaced by newer-generation fighters.

PLA Air Force Overview 2010 PLA Air Force Overview 2010 Presentation Transcript

  • Lt Gen David A. Deptula USAF, Retired People ’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Air Force (PLANAF) Update — Oct 2010 People ’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Naval Air Force (PLANAF) Update — Oct 2010
  • Overview
    • PLAAF
      • Fighters/Fighter bombers
      • Bombers/Support aircraft
      • UAVS/UCAVS
    • PLANAF
    • Production/Industry
    • Future
    • Conclusion
    • Video
  • PLAAF — Aircraft
    • Thousands of older fighters being taken out of service
      • F-6 (aka MiG-19)
      • A-5 FANTAN
    • Expect early versions of the F-7 FISHBED, F-8 and A-5 to follow
    • Some airframes may be UCAVs
  • PLAAF — Fighters
    • F-10 Vigorous Dragon (J-10)
    • Initially working with Israel
    • Based on Lavi initial designs
    • Advanced radar, missiles and EA
      • PL-12
      • KG-300
    • Moving forward on overall program relatively fast
    • At least five full up bases
    • Expect up to 10 more bases by ’15
    • Newer variant being worked on
    • PLAAF more confident in airframe and capabilities based on recent events
  • PLAAF — Fighters
    • Multiple FLANKER variants in China
      • Su-27SK—Russian built
      • Su-27UBK—Russian built two-seater
      • Su-30MKK—two seat multirole from Russia
      • Su-30MK2 (PLANAF only)—from Russia
      • F-11 (FLANKER)—kit-built Su-27SK
      • F-11A (FLANKER) (J-11A)—kit-built with limited Chinese avionics
  • PLAAF — Fighters
    • Newest FLANKER variants in China
      • F-11B/FLANKER (J-11B)
        • Single seat
        • Chinese engine, missiles, avionics
      • F-11BS/FLANKER (J-11BS)
        • Two seater
        • Multi role…possibly Su-30MKK like
        • Chinese engine, missiles and avionics
  • Su-27/FLANKER & F-10 Bases FLANKER F-10 1995 2009
  • PLAAF — Fighters
    • FB-7 Flying Leopard
      • At least two, possibly three versions
      • In both PLAAF and PLANAF
      • Primary ground attack/anti-ship role
      • However, noted with:
        • Advanced jammers
        • PL-12 active radar air-to-air missiles
      • Production of airframe appears sped up
        • Likely fixed any problems they had with indigenous engine
      • Growler variant?
      • Expect more bases in near future
  • PLAAF — Fighters
    • XXJ 5th Generation Fighter Concept
      • Competition between Shenyang and Chengdu designs
      • Final design chosen, work on initial prototype likely underway
    • PLAAF Air Chief Gen. He Wierong stated maiden flight “will occur soon,” with IOC projected ~2018
  • PLAAF — Fighters
    • JF-17 Thunder Dragon
      • Aircraft coproduced with Pakistan
      • Still unclear if China will buy
    • Advanced radar, engines and missiles
    • Not really needed in China
    • Major program for Chinese industry— may provide access to western tech
  • PLAAF — Bombers
    • B-6 BADGER baseline
    • Older B-6C/D variants still flying
    • Newer versions now operational
      • Extended range ALCMs
      • Updated engines
      • Increased payload
    • Newer variants/upgrades
      • B-6H
      • B-6M
      • B-6K
    • PLAAF ’s platform for regional reach
  • PLAAF — UAVS
    • UAVS
      • Multiple Programs, foreign involvement
      • Low medium & high altitude variants
      • Eclipsed Russia in last few years
    • UCAVS
      • Reports of 100s of UCAV F-6 FARMER
      • Also have Harpy UCAV
        • Appears to have built indigenous version
      • Across from Taiwan—will be used to overwhelm Taiwan ’s IADS
    • Becoming a force to be reckoned with as well as competitor in arms market
  • PLAAF — UAV / UCAV SOAR DRAGON UAV DARK SWORD UAV ASN-207 UAV ASN-206 W-50 HU-02 Chengdu UAV
  • PLAAF — Support Aircraft
    • Growth industry—China weaning itself from foreign dependency
    • Almost impossible to keep up with
    • Y-8 family multiplying like rabbits
      • Y-8 ABCCC
      • Y-8 SIGINT
      • Y-8 Jammer
      • Likely more variants out there
  • PLAAF — Support Aircraft
    • Other Intelligence Collection Acft
      • Tu-154MD
      • Learjet
      • F-8 Recce
    • AWACS #s also growing
      • Y-8 Version (KJ-200)
      • Il-76 Version (KJ-2000)
    • Small B-6 based tanker force
      • Looking for Il-78 from Russia
      • Contract signed, problems arising
  • PLANAF Fighters
    • Three Fleets (North, East & South)
      • All have air components
    • Fighters/Fighter bombers
      • Older aircraft…F-7/FISHBED & A-5
      • Newer fighters
        • FB-7—maritime strike role (AS-17)
        • F-8D—air interceptor
          • Crashed into the EP-3
        • Single Su-30MK2/FLANKER base
          • Stationed just outside Shanghai
        • FLANKER X2—carrier variant
  • PLANAF Fighters & Bombers
    • Bombers…Small #s of B-5
      • B-6 BADGER...B-6C & B-6G
        • B-6C…short range missiles
          • 2 pylons
        • B-6G…longer range missile
          • 4 pylons
  • PLANAF Support Aircraft
    • Small #s of B-6 tankers
      • Used to refuel F-8D and F-10
      • Recent exercise experience
    • Y-8 based systems
      • AWACS…Skymaster radar
      • ELINT aircraft
      • Maritime patrol acft
  • PLAAF/PLANAF Air-launched Air-to-Surface Missiles *YJ - Ying Ji = strike eagle Other Missiles AS-14 YJ-81 AS-13 YJ-91 YJ-62 PLA-N Indigenous Land Attack Cruise Missile DH-10 PLA-N Indigenous Land Attack Cruise Missile YJ-6/C-601 (CAS-1 Kraken) Anti-Ship Cruise Missile YJ-61/C-611 (CAS-1 Kraken) Anti-Ship Cruise Missile KD-63 Land Attack Cruise Missile
  • Aircraft Industry 1. Changhe Acft Industries Corp. WZ-10 / Z-8 / Z-9 2. Chengdu Acft Industry Group F-10 / F-10 Upgrade / JF-17 3. Guizhou Acft Industry Corp. FTC-2000 / WZ-2000 / FT-7 4. Harbin Acft Manufacturing Corp. H-5 / Y-11 / Y-12 / Z-5 / Z-9 5. Hongdu Aviation Industry Group MiG-19 / Q-6 / CJ-5 & 6 / L-15 / K-8 / MD500 6. Shanghai Aviation Industrial Co. MD-82 / 83 / 90 / B-737 / B-777 / ARJ-21 7. Shaanxi Aircraft Industry (Group) Co. Y-8 / Y-9 8. Shenyang Acft Corp. F-6 / F-7 / F-8 / F-11 / F-11B / XXJ / B-6 / Q-5 9. Xi'an Acft Industrial Corp. MA-60 / FB-7 / B-6 / KJ-2000 (conversion) * Some no longer produced Names Acft Produced (*) 7 2 8 4 5 3 6 1 9
  • Conclusions
    • China is emerging as a great power with broad-spectrum modernization back by a strong economic and technological base
    • PLAAF/PLANAF are undergoing transformation of historic scale
      • Doctrine, training, personnel, equipment, nature of war…
    • Taiwan has served to focus modernization efforts
    • PLAAF/PLANAF evolving regional capabilities
      • Expect ops and equipment to train for events beyond Taiwan
    • Chinese view of US military has evolved over time
      • Identifying US military vulnerabilities & weaknesses
      • Striving to negate US military capabilities
    • With PEACE MISSION 2010 and Turkish exercise, are we seeing a doctrinal shift in PLAAF training and employment?
  • Implications for USAF
    • Invest in R&D for next generation systems
    • Modernize legacy systems to maintain technological edge
    • Reduce dependency on, and vulnerability of, Asian bases
    • Increase long-range precision strike capabilities
    • Prepare to operate under severe EW/Cyber environment
    • Ensure integrity of USAF information systems
    • Improve and protect persistent ISR capabilities
    • Improve USAF understanding of China and PLA
    • Synchronize planning with US Navy (acquisition, special projects, operations, etc.) and strategic allies
    • Develop asymmetric approaches to PLA capabilities
  • Questions?
  • PLAN Carrier?
    • Little doubt China wants a carrier
    • Announced at Naval Week (Apr 09) desire for a carrier
    • Two carriers already in country… both old Soviet designs
      • Minsk—now a museum
      • Varyag—in dry dock at Dalian
    • Working with Ukraine at Saki
      • Bought old Su-33 from them
    • Established ground school and carrier training facility
    • Expect rudiments of carrier airwing training to begin soon
  • Major PLAAF/PLANAF Units
  • Aircraft Industry
    • Surge of production
      • F-11B/BS/X2—all-Chinese version of Russian Su-27/33/FLANKER
      • F-10—first PRC-developed 4th Generation fighter
      • JF-17—tactical fighter built in cooperation with Pakistan
      • Surge towards XXJ?
    F-11B F-10 JF-17
  • China: Aircraft Upgrades
    • PRC continues providing upgrades to their fleet of older aircraft
      • F-7/FISHBED fighter
      • F-8 fighter
      • FB-7 fighter/bomber
      • B-6 bombers
      • KJ-2000/MAINRING AWACs
    F-7G KJ-2000 F-8 FB-7A