Author Archives: combatpaparazzi

Seoul ADEX: ROK solid defence

Western media has been guilty of hyping up the threat of North Korea’s newly christened ‘Rocket Man’ who will soon be armed with nuclear weapons and a viable intercontinental ballistic missile. As it happens, life carries on as normal in South Korea; the country’s citizens are used to routine high jinks from its belligerent neighbour to the north.

To be sure, nobody wants a nuclear-armed Kim Jong-un. However, the inflammatory rhetoric between Trump and Kim has not ruffled the feathers of those who live within range of Pyongyang’s missile and artillery forces.

The Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition (ADEX) 2017 was proof of South Korea’s quiet determination to defend itself. Indeed, the country’s extensive and very capable defence industry used the opportunity to roll out a variety of new products.

The Republic of Korea (ROK) Armed Forces and the USAF used the venue to show their capabilities too. The USAF, for example, flew in pairs of F-22 Raptor fighters and F-35A Lightning II fighters. Another first for Seoul ADEX was the presence of an RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 30 belonging to the USAF. With Seoul having signed up for four Global Hawks that are due in 2018-19, this was the first time one had actually appeared at the show.

A critically important project for South Korea is its next-generation fighter aircraft, the KF-X being developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). A spokesman said it is undergoing ‘refinement and its configuration is being altered as testing continues’ ahead of a preliminary design review in mid-2018. KAI also unveiled its latest T-50A advanced jet trainer, a candidate for the USAF’s T-X programme.

KAI showed a series of scale models of its Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) and Light Civil Helicopter (LCH), both based on the H155 and being developed under a $10 billion programme. A critical design review has been completed and a first prototype should roll out in the third quarter of 2018.

Representing the gradual expansion of its KUH-1 Surion helicopter range, KAI demonstrated a new Republic of Korea Marine Corps (ROKMC) version at Seoul ADEX 2017. Last year KAI was awarded a contract to build these. Production commenced earlier this year and the first will be handed over to the marines in December.

Hanwha Defense Systems displayed a range of armoured vehicles at Seoul ADEX 2017. These included the K21-105 medium tank, Hybrid Bi Ho self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon system, K105HT truck-based 105mm howitzer and Chunmoo multiple launch rocket system.

Hyundai Rotem is another giant South Korean defence company, and it showed off two versions of its 8×8 Wheeled Armoured Vehicle (WAV) family, a peacekeeping operations version and an ambulance.

Hyundai Rotem also displayed a scale model of its 55t Korean Combat Engineering Vehicle, which features a full-width mine plough from Pearson Engineering. The company also revealed that it is returning to Renk to supply transmissions for its second batch of K2 MBTs. Deliveries were suspended because of reliability troubles with the S&T Dynamics transmission.

Moving on to small arms, S&T Motiv displayed several new developmental weapons for the ROK Army.

South Korea continues to leverage unmanned technologies too. Hanwha Techwin exhibited its 6×6 Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle, which is competing for an army development contract. LIG Nex1 also showed a scale model of its Sea Sword USV.

The Aerospace Division of Korean Air (KAL-ASD) showed a new KUS-HD hybrid UAS that uses a petrol engine to recharge its electrical batteries. Another KAL-ASD design on show was a prototype of the KUS-VT tiltrotor capable of VTOL flying. The strategic-level KUS-FS, a MALE aircraft destined for the ROKAF, first flew in 2012 and a series of flight tests was completed last year. Korean Air also showed a conceptual model of the next-generation KUS-FC, an armed aircraft with stealthy design and internal weapon bay.

KAL-ASD again showed its KUS-VH, with the company recording progress in its quest to create an unmanned MD 500 helicopter. It undertook its first flights last year with a pilot aboard.

There were digital advancements too, including fielding of the Tactical Information Communication Network (TICN) by the ROK Army, and LIG Nex1 showed a weapon locating radar and short-range AESA air defence radar.

And my personal highlight of Seoul ADEX 2017? Probably the level of security provided for President Moon Jae-in when he flew in for the show’s opening ceremony.

His motorcade of black SUVs with balaclava-clad close-protection personnel would have rivalled anything the US president could have dreamed of.

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The last Talisman Saber ever…?

Exercise Talisman Saber 2017  took place at multiple locations across Australia last month. I couldn’t even tell you what its official dates were, as it’s a kind of nebulous affair that requires a lot of build-up in intensity before it picks up momentum.

There was a lot to say about this year’s event. It was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in the series of seven eponymous exercises. It involved more than 33,000 troops, primarily from Australia and the US, along with a sizeable (relative to its strength) contingent from New Zealand, and smatterings of Japanese and Canadians.

Talisman Saber 2017 also witnessed the largest Australian Defence Force (ADF) amphibious assault since World War Two. I mean to say, it featured no fewer than four landing craft disgorging troops onto the beach at the same time. Obviously Australia has not conducted many amphibious landings in the past 70 years!

Nevertheless, HMAS Canberra did not break down, and the ADF managed to get a battalion ashore by landing craft and helicopter. It’s still problematic that the Canberra class cannot land an Abrams tank ashore because they’re too heavy for its landing craft, but let’s not diminish the accomplishments of the Australian Army’s maturing amphibious capability.

As Greg Colton remarked in the Lowy Institute’s blog The Interpreter, ‘This year’s exercise has shown that the ADF can now project a combined-arms battlegroup over the shore and sustain it during mid-intensity warfighting. A significant role of any defence force is to act as a deterrent and to do so it must be capable against a range of high-end threats. The ADF has demonstrated that it is now able to conduct major amphibious operations throughout the region, either unilaterally or as part of a coalition with the US or New Zealand. As such, for the first time in three decades, Australia now has the military capability to back up its stated defence strategy.’

The US Army had a much larger presence than usual, with an Alaska-based Stryker battalion and Hawaii-based combat aviation unit from the 25th Infantry Division participating as part of the Pacific Pathways series of exercises. This saw US Army Apaches and Black Hawks appearing for the first time, as well as Gray Eagle UAVs.

The USMC performed a typical ‘kick down the door’ amphibious assault too, landing ashore near the end of the free-play exercise to act as the anvil to destroy the last resistance of the opposing force. Also on the American side, the USN and USMC flew media by MV-22B Osprey and hosted them aboard USS Bonhomme Richard for a ship tour and interview with navy commanders.

I’m not sure why Australia didn’t do the same with HMAS Canberra. Perhaps they were afraid it might break?

The exercise was so interesting that China sent one of its Type 815 spy ships to hang out on Australia’s periphery too. Oddly enough, Australia and the US didn’t throw a tantrum or stamp on the floor as China does when it sees foreign naval vessels pass through the South China Sea. It seems China has not seen the irony in the situation yet.

With so many accomplishments to trumpet, why then the headline of this piece asking if this is the last Talisman Saber ever?

Well, it just may be my final Talisman Saber ever. After covering the past five exercises, the frustrations have built up to the point where I must question the expense and time necessary to attend, especially when flying from overseas.

You see, the ADF really dropped the ball in terms of media relations this year. Before the exercise began, media support was almost non-existent. Even after an application was lodged, there was no acknowledgement, no contact person available to answer queries. A simple question such as, ‘What date is the exercise?’ went unanswered, making it impossible to book air tickets until the last, and most expensive, minute.

Then, all information about what activities media wished to cover disappeared into a black hole, never to be seen again. It was only after US public affairs officers (PAO) hit the ground running at the start of the exercise that any kind of information started flowing.

Even then, there were frustrations. Without explanation I was bumped off the list of media attending the said amphibious assault – the largest since WWII, did you know? – because it was preferable to give seats to VIPs and senators. It seems the parachute drop on the same day was a bust too, as media only saw it from a kilometre away behind the treeline.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are some fantastic PAOs on both the Australian and US sides – and I met many of them this year, and I had a great time with Battle Group Cannan, the Kiwis, the Japanese, the USMC and USN – but the overall coordination this year was poor. Embeds seemed to be organised ad hoc at the last minute, even though they had been requested weeks, nay months, in advance.

There were so many good stories that Shephard would have loved to tell: Australia’s biggest amphibious assault since WWII (hadn’t you heard?), UAVs, helicopters, the ASLAV surveillance vehicle, urban operations, development of 2 RAR’s amphibious capability, upgrades of M1A1 Abrams tanks, organisation of armoured cavalry regiments, etc. Sadly, they just weren’t possible.

Yes, I understand that the tactical exercise is a complex jigsaw of working pieces and that not all media requests can be accommodated. I wasn’t even angry that my RAAF escort and I got abandoned on the side of the road for seven hours at one stage! However, careful planning and organisation could have made things a lot smoother for all media. And incidentally, this is not just sour grapes from me, because every media counterpart that I spoke to had a similar tale of woe.

And then, alas, Virgin Australia hit me with an A$70 excess baggage charge for being 2kg over the limit when departing from Rockhampton Airport. That was perhaps the straw that broke this long-suffering camel’s back.

So, yes, it might well be my final Talisman Saber…Even if the ADF could entice me back in 2019, I certainly won’t be flying Virgin Australia.

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Liaoning inspires Hong Kong’s patriotism

A tad after 0600 on 7 July, yours truly boarded a skiff in Tsim Sha Tsui and headed around the southwest coast of Hong Kong Island for an at-sea rendezvous. The target of the photographic tryst was Liaoning (CV 16), China’s first ever functional aircraft carrier, plus a task group of three other warships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

The visit of the Chinese carrier had been hyped during the preceding few weeks, and a fever pitch of patriotism had been whipped up. Ostensibly, the ships were in Hong Kong to celebrate the territory’s 20th anniversary of the handover to China on 1 July 1997.

Beijing has a decided sense of unease, perhaps even paranoia, over growing resistance in some quarters to its rule in Hong Kong. Among the young, especially, there is frustration at the lack of political reform and perceived loss of freedoms.

The visit of the 55,000t carrier was therefore designed to inspire patriotism, to let Hong Kongers sense their ‘Chineseness’ and their inseparable destiny as part of China’s future.

Certainly, Chinese media joined in the party line with colourful descriptions like this: their ‘advanced missile detectors and high-tech radar shining like beacons under the morning sun’.

Or this one, ‘It was a gift by the Central People’s government to the people of Hong Kong – a gesture, as Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said, to show great care and support toward the HKSAR.’

A mere 2,000 members of the public were permitted to board Liaoning, and they could do so only if they snared tickets handed out at three PLA camps in Hong Kong a week earlier. Some queued for up to 15 hours to ensure they got their sweaty paws on a golden ticket, whereas this author admits to lining up in the dark and rain for a mere eight hours!

Restrictions were in place. Tickets stated that no cameras were allowed aboard and that photography was strictly verboten.

Nevertheless, the chance to go aboard Liaoning was too good to pass up, and this author duly arrived at 0600 on the first day to undergo tight security checks – no literature, paper, water or food were allowed either – and head out to the carrier anchored in Hong Kong waters for its five-day port call.

Surprisingly, once aboard the ship, visitors were actually given free rein to walk the flight deck and to take photos and videos with their phones. This was a surprising relaxation of the rules and it allowed Hong Kongers to get close-ups of equipment such as J-15 fighters albeit minus weapons and with their engines covered up.

The port call, the biggest in the past 20 years, was designed to inspire patriotism by showing the military prowess of the PLA. However, the irony was probably lost on most residents that this particular 30-year-old carrier was originally built for the Soviet navy.

In a further irony, it was discovered that Liaoning did not meet Hong Kong shipping regulations in terms of emissions. However, the government decreed that the PLA was exempt from such rules.

Liaoning was originally built as the Varyag in the 1980s before being abandoned when the Soviet Union collapsed. After languishing for many years, a Chinese businessman purchased the hull, which was stripped of all equipment, to supposedly host a casino in Macau. However, this was just a ploy, with the real reason being to refurbish it for service in the PLAN.

Hong Konger Xu Zengping was the frontman acting for the PLAN, even though he was left heavily in debt after purchasing it for $20 million in 1998. Upon the arrival of the vessel in Hong Kong, he told the South China Morning Post, ‘I have witnessed so many US aircraft carriers visit Hong Kong over the past decades since I moved here 30 years ago. Today, I finally see my country’s aircraft carrier making a port call here. It was worth making all the effort in those days.’

Aboard the carrier on this occasion were just eight J-15 fighters, just a third of what the carrier is capable of carrying. Also on the carrier’s 14,700m² flight deck were a Z-9S search and rescue helicopter, plus a Z-8JH medical evacuation helicopter. A Z-18 helicopter was parked inside the hangar deck, a cavernous area otherwise empty.

The Chinese carrier has 2,626 crewmen aboard, representing some 20 different ethnic groups. There are ten different cafeterias catering to them, including one designed for Muslims. Some 2-3 tonnes of food is consumed daily.

In terms of technology, the two accompanying destroyers were more impressive than the refurbished Liaoning – the Type 052D destroyer Yinchuan and the Type 052C destroyer Jinan. The fourth ship in the task group was Yantai, a Type 054A frigate.

Liaoning is very much a training platform on which a cadre of pilots and sailors will hone their skills. China launched its first indigenously built aircraft carrier on 26 April 2017 but two years of trials will be necessary before that vessel officially enters service.

Liaoning was at the vanguard of a PLA and Beijing leadership charm offensive. However, this degree of openness is all very unnatural for the PLA, which is used to extreme secrecy. This perhaps explains why the author was not permitted to board a destroyer with a camera, whereas all other members of the public were.

However, the public relations campaign seemed to have worked on at least one person, a Hong Konger who was seen kissing the deck of the carrier during his pilgrimage to patriotism.

 

 

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Singapore holds first International Maritime Review

Above: RSS Independence, the RSN’s newly commissioned LMV, was one of the reviewing ships.

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), which this year is celebrating its golden jubilee, held its first ever international maritime review in waters off the newly rechristened RSS Singapura – Changi Naval Base on 15 May.

Talking about the event, the RSN stated, ‘The International Maritime Review is an opportunity for the RSN to welcome our friends from around the world to join us in our 50th anniversary celebrations.

‘Working with like-minded navies from the region and beyond to tackle common transboundary maritime security threats, the RSN has strengthened mutual trust and understanding to interoperate effectively with other navies and maritime agencies. The RSN, together with our international partners, continues to ensure a safe and secure maritime environment for all.’

Huangshan is a Type 054A frigate of the People’s Liberation  Army Navy.

Singapore’s President Tony Tan Keng Yam reviewed the participating vessels from land and from aboard RSS Independence, the RSN’s recently commissioned and first-of-class Littoral Mission Vessel.

The fleet review featured 16 ships from the RSN, two vessels from the Police Coast Guard and four aircraft from the Republic of Singapore Air Force, as well as 28 vessels from 20 foreign navies.

Some vessels, such as the large Thai aircraft carrier and Japanese ‘helicopter destroyer’ remained berthed at the naval base, while the majority of the ships were moored at sea.

HTMS Chakri Naruebet, Thailand’s solitary aircraft carrier (sans aircraft except for a couple of helicopters), was the largest vessel in the International Maritime Review.

This was one of the swiftest fleet reviews that this author has participated in, which was probably fortunate given that a tropical thunderstorm enveloped the area right at the end. Media boarded a couple of Fast Craft Utility (FCU) for the event, and were whisked up and down the lines of moored warships in a well-orchestrated event.

During the IMDEX exhibition that was held from 16-18 May, attendees had the opportunity to go aboard and more closely examine a number of these ships whilst they were berthed within RSS Singapura – Changi Naval Base.

The full list of those ships participating in the review is given below.

Singapore participants

RSS Persistence and RSS Endurance (Endurance class), RSS Kaliang, RSS Punggoi and RSS Bedok (Bedok class), RSS Fearless and RSS Daring (Fearless class), RSS Formidable, RSS Supreme and RSS Stalwart (Formidable class), RSS Valiant and RSS Vigilance (Victory class), RSS Independence and Sovereignty (Independence class), RSS Swordsman (Archer class), RSS Conqueror (Challenger class), and Sandbar Shark and Whitetip Shark of the Police Coast Guard.

The RSN’s futuristic-looking Specialised Marine Craft (SMC) performed security tasks during the fleet review.

International participants

Australia – HMAS Ballarat

Bangladesh – BNS Shadhinota

Brunei – KDB Darussalam

Canada – HMCS Ottawa

China – Huangshan

France – FS Prairial

India – INS Sahyadri and INS Kamorta

Indonesia – KRI Sultan Hasanuddin and KRI Halasan

Japan – JS Izumo and JS Sazanami

Malaysia – KD Lekir

Myanmar – UMS Sin Phyu Shin

New Zealand – HMNZS Te Kaha and HMNZS Endeavour

Pakistan – PNS Zulfiquar

Philippines – BRP Gregorio del Pilar

Russia – RFS Varyag

South Korea – ROKS Dae Jo Yeong

Sri Lanka – SLNS Sagara and SLNS Nandimithra

Thailand – HTMS Chakri Naruebet, HTMS Naresuan and HTMS Sukhothai

US – USS Sterett and USS Coronado

Vietnam – VPNS Dinh Tien Hoang

 

China apologises for poster gaffe

It is hard for any of us to say sorry, but even more so for a communist regime. However, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense (MND) has done so, purportedly for the first time.

The MND admitted an embarrassing photoshop failure on an official poster celebrating the 68th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). It was an error that drew ridicule from home and abroad, and it occurred shortly before the fanfare surrounding the launch of China’s very first indigenously built aircraft carrier on 26 April.

The celebratory poster depicted a carrier alongside an eclectic and mistaken mix of American and Russian military platforms. Indeed, lifting off from China’s in-service Liaoning carrier was a Russian MiG-35 fighter (apparently not having had to use its landing gear either), an aircraft type not used by China.

Even more bizarre, ploughing through the calm ocean alongside the Liaoning were two San Antonio-class amphibious assault ships operated by the US Navy.

Overhead on the flashy poster a trio of J-10 fighters streaked across a blue sky emblazoned with the message ‘Happy birthday, People’s Liberation Army Navy!’

While the PLAN does operate some J-10s, one would have expected to see carrier-based J-15s operating so far out to sea.

All in all, the PR poster was a massive fail.

A Hong Kong newspaper quoted one critical Chinese netizen who said on the Weibo social media site, ‘This picture shows everyone at the propaganda department is mentally deficient.’

Such was the fuss that the topic came up at an MND press conference on 27 April. Spokesman Yang Yujun commented, ‘We also noticed this problem as you mentioned. We were not meticulous enough in illustrating the image and we suffered from criticism from the internet users.’

He continued, ‘The carelessness was with the editor but the responsibility is on the shoulders of the leadership.’

Indeed, one wonders just how many high-ranking officials will be sent to ‘re-education through labour’ camps to pay for their carelessness. Oh, wait, China supposedly abolished all these camps in 2013 so they might yet be okay.

A reporter asked why the poster had not been removed from circulation, and Yang replied, ‘Criticism of the friends on the internet is more of care and support to us. So we prefer to leave the picture and comments there so they can always remind us that only when we continuously improve and perfect ourselves can we better serve our fans and the military fans.’

The Global Times reported that this was the first time that China’s MND had ever issued a public apology for a work-related error.

Wow! Talk about cracks appearing in the façade!

DJI enjoys global domination

20161216_114059 According to an Oppenheimer report released earlier this year, DJI enjoyed a 70% market share in the sale of consumer UAVs. With the company valued by investors at $8 billion, this is a phenomenal result given how crowded the ‘drone market’ has become.

If you’re wondering, DJI stands for Da-Jiang Innovation. The company was established just ten years ago by Frank Wang, a graduate of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Incidentally, Forbes places the DJI CEO 48th on its China list with a net worth of $3.6 billion.

DJI opened its flagship store in Hong Kong on 24 September. This was DJI’s third, following the setting up of stores in Shenzhen and Seoul. Latterly, DJI opened a fourth store in Shanghai.

store-front

I trotted along to the Hong Kong venue to find out more about why DJI is so popular among consumers. Whilst there, I saw the latest products, including the 743g Mavic Pro that was launched in October; it is almost pocket-sized. This compact UAV measuring 198mm x 83mm x 83mm folds up for easy transportation but sacrifices no features found in other mainstream UAVs.

The Phantom is the bestselling product in DJI’s range, with the newest variant, the Phantom 4 Pro+, released in mid-November. Elsewhere, the Inspire 2 designed with filmmakers in mind was also launched last month. The Matrice 600 is another platform for professional filmmakers.

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Kevin On, DJI’s associate director of communication, listed five key sectors where it believes UAVs have the highest potential for adoption: agriculture, cinematography, inspection of energy infrastructure, construction and infrastructure, and emergency response.

dji-smallTime savings, as well as safety issues, are obvious for such applications. For example, it is more efficient to use a UAV to examine a wind turbine tower or an electrical pylon than it is to send a worker scaling up one. Meanwhile, plumbing pipes on the outside of an apartment block can be examined by a UAV more efficiently than a worker clambering up and down scaffolding.

DJI has 17 offices worldwide and a global workforce of 6,000. The majority are based in Shenzhen, China, and around a third of the firm’s employees are engineers, reflecting the emphasis that DJI places on innovation. It also produces its own gimbals and cameras, which allows better optimisation of its UAV designs.

While the UAV industry is still relatively young, On agreed that the market is becoming crowded. He noted that putting a UAV into the air is not the hard part, but having it do something useful and making it safe, reliable and easy to navigate is far more difficult.

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While the USA, Europe and China are DJI’s biggest markets overall, On said the biggest interest in the rest of Asia came from Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong. He noted that these are areas where the adoption of technology is high.

Another innovation in which DJI is investing heavily is robotics and artificial intelligence. Currently its UAVs employ simple machine learning but, as technology progresses, machine learning will become more complex and enable the UAV to make informed decisions. Obstacle avoidance is an obvious application of this kind of technology.

On provided three reasons for DJI’s success: making its products safer, more accessible and easier to use.

Based on its lion’s share of the global market past and present, that formula seems to be working. However, one must expect competition to intensify from both within and outside of China.

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Juicing the gen in Zhuhai

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The world – including North Korean technicians dressed in mufti, uniformed African delegations by the busload and Iranian officials flown in by executive jet – flocked to the 11th China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai from 1-6 November.

Nowadays the biennial Zhuhai Air Show is undisputedly Asia’s largest military exhibition and, unfortunately, that means the price of hotel accommodation doubles or triples and the event is overrun by people who have no business being there. Just what is the point of allowing housewives, the elderly and infirm, and thousands of souvenir hunters and selfie-takers to run roughshod over the show?

However, as one elbowed their way through the heaving masses, there were numerous exciting revelations to discover. The highlight was the J-20 stealth fighter’s cameo appearance on opening day. However, if you blinked, you would have missed this brief apparition as the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) enigmatically played hard to get.

Other PLAAF aircraft debuted in Zhuhai, however, to sooth the disappointment of those who blinked. Among them were the J-10B fighter, H-6K bomber, KJ-500 airborne early warning aircraft, Y-20 transport aircraft and Z-10K attack helicopter.

All photos by the author.

Nearby were towering air surveillance radars, a number purportedly able to detect F-22 and F-35 stealth aircraft. Fact or fiction? Certainly China is happy with either as it handcrafts an aura of technological advancement. On display was the JY-27A 3D long-range surveillance/guidance radar, the PLA’s first active phased array system. The debuting SLC-7 radar integrates mechanical scanning with phased-array technology, and yet another anti-stealth fighter radar was the JY-50 2D passive system.

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What about the halls crammed with lethal weaponry, which give the outside world vague hints as to what the PLA might be fielding? Was the two-stage TYD-1 missile target a tantalising hint that China is robustly pursuing a ballistic missile defence programme?

There were explosive missiles revelations too. Very potent was the supersonic 290km-range CM-302 anti-ship cruise missile, an export version of the YJ-12 in PLA service. Chinese media called it ‘the world’s best anti-ship missile’ thanks to supersonic speed sustained throughout flight, before it accelerates to Mach 3 in its terminal phase.

There were startling revelations about China’s space programme too. Perennially touted as being for wholly peaceful purposes, it was shown for what it is in one fell swoop. On show were scale models of two transporter-erector-launchers (TEL) able to launch Long March rockets, both clad in a military camouflage schemes. Why does China need military TELs for Long March rockets? Obviously, their function is to rapidly launch satellite payloads to replace satellites lost in a space war. Such satellites could also deploy microsatellites possessing warheads to destroy US satellites.

And no description would be complete without mentioning the bewildering array of UAVs. Leading the charge were unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV), which China is hawking worldwide and are being used for manifold purposes by somewhat dubious regimes.

The well-known Wing Loong 1 and 2 appeared, while models and brochures indicated the existence of a Wing Loong 1-D and Wing Loong 3, the latter powered by two propeller engines.

Two new jet-powered UCAVs also had maiden appearances in Zhuhai. One was the high-altitude, long-endurance Cloud Shadow with 14,000m cruising altitude and 620km/h maximum speed. Also, the competing CH-5 UCAV can carry a 1,000kg payload to a ceiling of 10km.

Although it was an air show, there was a massive amount of heavy armour on display too. Norinco unveiled its VT5 light main battle tank, this sharing heritage from the PLA’s own light tank that entered service in 2014.

To summarise, if you’re looking for new fighters, helicopters, UAVs, radars, missiles or armoured vehicles, China’s giant military-industrial complex is churning out equipment that will suit you. And even better, anyone can apply, despots from North Korea, Africa and Iran included.

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