*Source: DTN News / Strategy Page
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - July 15, 2009: China's efforts to develop the capability to design and manufacture high tech weapons has also turned them into a major exporter of weapons. While many nations export low tech weapons, only a few can manufacture the higher-priced (and more complex) stuff. Thus, the top exporters have been the United States, Russia, Germany, France, and Britain. While it's no surprise that Israel is moving up the list, China's sudden surge in arms sales is something of a surprise. According to official Chinese sources, the J-10 is said to have been developed from the now canceled Chengdu J-9. However, there have been conflicting reports about a possible relationship between the J-10 and the Israeli IAI Lavi fighter program, the latter having a similar canard-configuration. The J-9 program predated both of the other aircraft. In an interview, the general designer of J-10, Mr. Song Wencong said, "Our nation's new fighter's external design and aerodynamics configuration are completely made by us and did not receive foreign assistance, this made me very proud. Our nation developed J-9 in the 1960s, this adopted the canard configuration. So, those statements that said J-10 is a copy of Israeli Lavi are just laughable."
In April 2006, the media reported that the Pakistani government intends to procure at least 36 J-10s (designated FC-20 or FC-10, depending on the report). The Business Recorder claims that the Pakistani official document it obtained said the Cabinet "has allowed PAF to set up Joint Working Group (JWG) with CATIC for procurement of 36 FC-20 aircraft". PAF would soon induct fourth and fifth generation high-tech fleet of fighter-bomber aircraft with the aim to modernize the country's air force which includes the induction of 2 squadrons of Chengdu J-10 aircraft. The J-10 export deal is estimated to cost a total of $1.5 billion USD, with a flyaway price of $41 million USD for each J-10 fighter with maintenance and parts inclusive.
Iran was reported to have signed a deal to purchase 24 J-10s from China in October 2007. The agreement is estimated at a cost of about $1 billion, with deliveries of the 24 jets expected between 2008 and 2010 to replace MiG-29 jets. However China later denied that such a sale had taken place. But over the last two decades, China has poured billions of dollars into developing the ability to design and manufacture high-performance jet engines for combat aircraft. This is what has kept so many industrialized nations out of the warplane export market. Only a few nations (the U.S., Britain, France, and Russia) have dominated this market for decades. Now China is joining this club, and no longer has to get permission from another nation before it exports high performance military aircraft. China began by building, under license, British and Russian engines. Now they are designing and building their own. Oddly enough, the most popular Chinese export, is the K-8 trainer, which uses a less complex business jet class engine. There are many models of this type of engine available, which gives K-8 buyers several vendors to choose from. The most popular Chinese combat aircraft export is the F-7, which began, decades ago, as a copy of the Russian MiG-21. But the F-7 has undergone many improvements, and China stresses the ability to install Western radars and other electronics in the basic F-7. For any nation looking for a basic jet fighter, the F-7 is always a formidable competitor, especially on price. For those looking to step up, China is offering the JF-17. This is a 13 ton fighter, costing about $20 million and pitched as an alternative to the American F-16. But the JF-17 is only considered the equal to earlier versions of the F-16. The JF-17 originally used the same Russian engine, the RD-93, that is used in the MiG-29. The JF-17 design is based on a cancelled Russian project, the MiG-33. Most of the JF-17 electronics are Western, with Italian firms being major suppliers. The JF-17 can carry 3.6 tons of weapons and use radar guided and heat seeking missiles. It has max speed of Mach 1.6, an operating range of 1,300 kilometers and a max altitude of 55,000 feet. The JF-17 was developed as a joint venture with Pakistan. The next step up is the J-10, which is based on the F-16 (or, rather, the cancelled Israeli Lavi fighter.) Originally, the J-10 used a Russian AL-31FN engine, but China has been working for a decade to manufacture their own version of this, the WS10A. This was something of an acid test for them, as the WS10A is a powerful military engine, and a complex piece of work. Russia refused to license China to produce the AL-31FN, so the Chinese stole as much of the technology as they could and designed the WS10A. This engine has been tested, and officially approved for production, but apparently still has quality control and performance problems. But with the WS10A, China can step up production of their unauthorized copy of the Russian Su-27, the J-11. This puts China in the big leagues, although Russia has threatened to sue if China tries to export the J-11 (which contains stolen Russian design technology, as well as the WS10A, itself a copy of the Russian engine used in the Su-27.) A major competitor for these aircraft has been Cold War surplus F-16s. These are combat proven aircraft, which have been well maintained by their American or European users. China is also exporting a lot of missiles, with some success. These include air-to-air (both heat seeking and radar guided), anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, ballistic missiles and smart bombs. All of these use a lot of stolen technology (from the West, as well as Russia.) China uses a lot of this purloined Russian technology to offer for sale a range of military radars. China has had less success with warships and armored vehicles. Most Chinese warship exports have been smaller, and less expensive, ships (patrol boats and frigates.) With armored vehicles, China has been hurt by the large number of Cold War surplus T-72s available. China has had more success with artillery (multiple rocket launchers) and wheeled armored personnel carriers (mainly the WZ 551, which is a 6x6 vehicle that carries 13 soldiers, and a 25mm cannon. This one appears to be based on the French VAB, not Russian models.) China has a further advantage in that it will sell to anyone who can pay. International protests about "arming tyrants" does not bother China, only the inability to pay.