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Sukhoi Su-27SK  FLANKER-B

Length:   21.935m Wingspan:  14.698m Wing Area:  62.04 sq.m

Engine:  2x Saturn AL-31F; 12,500kg max thrust  Fuel:   internal: 9,400kg

NTOW:  23,400kg  MTOW:  33,000kg

Max Speed:  M 2.35  Max Ceiling:  18,500m Range:  S/L: 1,370km; altitude: 3,680km

Weapons:  10 hardpoints; 8,000kg max load; 6x R-73 AAM; 6x R-27 AAM; up to 38 100kg bombs; 4x rocket pods; 1x GSh-301 30mm cannon w/ 150 rounds; Upgrade version: 6x R-77 AAM; 4x Kh-31A/P; 4x Kh-29; 4x KAB-500; 1x KAB-1500

Radar:  Tikhomirov NIIP N001; 80-100km range; track 10x and engage 2x targets

Systems:  OLS-27 IRST, 80-100km range; Helmet Sight; SPO-15 RWR; IR/96x chaff/flare; Sorbitsya ECM; Spektr data link; Upgrade version: MFDs; new INS; new weapons computer to enable new AAMs, PGMs. 













Russian sources indicate that in the late 1980s and very early 1990s, China chose to purchase the Su-27 because of its superior performance over the competing MiG-29.[1] Between 1992 and 1996 about 36 Su-27SKs were delivered to the PLAAF from the Komsomolsk-na-Amur based KnAAPO factory[2] to form the core of two fighter regiments deployed in Wuhu, Anhui Province and Suixi, in Guangdong Province. These units used during "intimidation" exercises directed against Taiwan in 1995, 1996 and 1999.[3]  As its first 4th generation fighter, the PLAAF took most of the 1990s to properly absorb the Su-27SK, especially regarding tactics, training and maintenance-for which there remains heavy dependence on Russian parts and expertise.  In September 1998 an uncertain number (5-20) were damaged during a typhoon and most were repaired by KnAAPO.


            The Su-27SK is the first PLAAF fighter capable of competing with 1980s U.S. fighters.  At medium fuel states the Su-27 can outmaneuver the U.S. F-15, a point twice demonstrated in friendly U.S.-Russian aerial maneuvers,[4] and occasionally touted in the PLA press.[5] During an August 1992 visit to Langley Air Force Base, Su-27s from the Russian training base of Lipetsk were able to soundly defeat U.S. F-15s during four exercise "air combat" sessions.[6] Its long range was demonstrated during the Summer of 1999 when Suixi-based Su-27s flew round-trip missions over the Taiwan Strait during intimidation exercises.[7]  The PLAAF's Su-27SKs are capable of its full advertised range because strengthened undercarriage allows full fuel load carriage and maximum flying weight was increased from 28,000kg to 33,000kg.[8] 


            The limitations of the Su-27SK, however, soon became apparent to the PLAAF.  As a single mission air superiority fighter, it could only perform secondary attack missions, and only with "dumb" munitions that include a range of free-fall bombs and unguided rockets.  Using such munitions in combat unnecessarily exposes the expensive fighter to modern Western air defense systems. While its R-27R1 has an impressive 60km range, it has a semi-active guidance system which requires the Tikomirov NIIP N001 radar to "paint" the target. One area of sustained superiority is conferred by the Vympel R-73 (AA-11).  It is the only helmet-sighted AAM on the Taiwan Strait and its 30km range allows for longer-range cuing by the OLS-27 IRST, which can track a heat emitting target from the rear hemisphere out to 100km.   


Perhaps the most important lesson the single-mission Su-27SK gave the PLAAF was that it needed true multi-mission aircraft in order to modernize.  This led to the 1998 decision to purchase the multi-role Su-30MKK.  However, previously purchased Su-27s are also receiving upgrades. By late 2003 it was revealed that the PLAAF has been upgrading its initial Sukois into multi-role fighters. Reports from the September 2003 Beijing Airshow revealed that since 2001 the PLA had purchased at least 100 upgrade kits (probably many more) for avionics and other systems from the Russian Technocomplex group of avionics and aircraft systems companies.[9] This upgrade draws from Sukhoi's Su-27SM upgrade program, which was in turn funded by the PLA program.[10] In essence, it adds new processors that allow the existing N001 radar to perform air to ground missions, and guide active AAMs like the R-77.  New Multi-function cockpit displays ease the pilot's workload shifting between counter-air and ground attack missions. Sukhoi intends for this upgrade to eventually include a new Tikomirov active phased array radar based on its "Pero" system,[11] which may be referred to as the "Panda," it will be testing in 2004 and 2005.  But it is not clear whether the PLA will opt for this radar for its Su-27 or J-11 fighters.    


 This upgrade program has the potential to rapidly increase the number of multi-role fighters in the PLAAF, conceivably adding up to 78 Su-27SK/UBKs and 200+ J-11s to the 100+ Su-30MKK/MKK2 multi role fighters.  The prospect of the later was formidable enough.  But the near-term prospect of nearly 400 Sukhoi fighters with ability to launch active-guided R-77s and anti-ship missiles like the Kh-31A on a single mission creates great pressure for a U.S. defensive response.  Such a force poses a serious challenge to Taiwan's ability to maintain control over its own airspace as well as complicating U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy plans to come to Taiwan's defense if needed. 



Length:   21.935m Wingspan:  14.698m Wing Area:  62.04 sq.m

Engine:  2x Saturn AL-31F; 12,500kg max thrust  Fuel:   internal: 9,400kg

NTOW:  24,000kg MTOW:  30,500kg

Max Speed:  M 2 Max Ceiling:  17,500m  Range:  S/L: 1,300km; high alt: 3,000km

Weapons:  10 hardpoints; 4,000kg max load; 6x R-73 AAM; 6x R-27 AAM; 38 100kg bombs; 4x rocket pods; 1x GSh-301 30mm cannon w/ 150 rounds; Upgrade version: 6x R-77 AAM; 4x Kh-31A/P; 4x Kh-29; 4x KAB-500; 1x KAB-1500

Radar:  Tikhomirov NIIP N001; 80-100km range; track 10x and engage 2x targets

Systems:  OLS-27 IRST, 80-100km range; Helmet Sight; SPO-15 RWR; 96x chaff/flare; Sorbitsya ECM; Spektr data link; Upgrade version: MFDs, new INS, new weapons computer to enable new AAMs, PGMs.  
















The PLAAF acquired 14 twin-seat Su-27UBK dual-mission training and combat aircraft with the first two batches of Su-27 purchases.  Acquiring a small number of trainers proved to be part of a larger failing to invest in a full range of training resources in order to make some economies.  These errors were reflected in the Su-27's lack-luster flying during 1996 exercises to "intimidate" Taiwan, which did not impress U.S. or Taiwanese observers.[12] This deficiency, compounded by the PLA's aggressive acquisition plans, led to 28 more Su-27UBKs being ordered in 1999 and delivered by the end of 2002.  By the late 1990s did the PLAAF begin to train more aggressively with the Sukhoi. All Su-27UBKs have been built by IAPO in Irkusk, their only contribution to Sukhoi's China exports.  The PLAAF has also obtained from Sukhoi at least two Su-27 simulators,[13] and very likely, a greater number of Su-30MKK simulators.  The later have grown in sophistication.[14]


            All Su-27UBKs in PLAAF service are combat-capable.  The first two batches of Su-27UBKs were assigned to the first two units of Su-27SKs.  The third larger batch of 28 appears to be assigned to a single training unit.  There are minor differences in performance with the Su-27SK, with the most significant being a lesser warload.  However, the same upgrade being applied to PLAAF Su-27SKs is being applied to Su-27UBKs, giving them a new multi-role capability.[15]  The second batch that was delivered in 2002, may have already had such upgrades that would allow them to use advanced missiles like the Vympel R-77[16] and the Zvezda Kh-31A/P anti-ship/anti-radar missile.



Length:   21.935m Wingspan:  14.698m Wing Area:  62.04 sq.m

Engine:  2x Saturn AL-31F; 12,500kg max thrust  Fuel:   internal: 9,640kg

NTOW:  unknown  MTOW:  38,800kg

Max Speed:  M 2  Max Ceiling:  17,500m

Range:  S/L: 1,300km; altitude: 3,000km; one refueling: 5,200km; two refueling: 6,990km

Weapons:  12 hardpoints; 8,000kg max load; 6x R-73 AAM; 8x R-77AAM; 8x R-27 AAM; 6x Kh-29T; 6x Kh-31P; 2x Kh-59M; 6x KAB-500Kr; 3x KAB-1500Kr; up to 50x 100kg bombs; 4x rocket pods; 1x GSh-301 30mm cannon w/ 150 rounds; MKK2: 6x Kh-31A

Radar:  Tikhomirov NIIP N001VE; 90-110km counter-air; 70-80km ground targets; 200-250km for large ships;MKK2: possible Phazotron Zhuk-M-S, 140km counter-air, 300km large ships;Kupol M400 side-looking radar pod, controls 10x fighters; MKK3: possible Tikomirov "Panda," 190km counter air (est.); or new version of Zhuk-M-S

Systems:  OLS-30 IRST, 80-100km range; Surya-K Helmet Sight; Sapsan-E ir/laser targeting pod; APK-9 data link pod for Kh-59ME; MFDs; A-737 satnav system; L-150 Pastel RWR; 96x chaff/flare; Sorbitsya ECM; Spektr data link  


















With the purchase of the Sukhoi Su-30MKK (Mnogafunctunali Kommercial Kitayski-Multifunctional Commercial for China) the PLAAF demonstrated that it had made a clear doctrinal commitment to acquiring multi-role attack fighters capable of "joint" warfighting. The Su-30MKK is the first PLAAF attack fighter capable of delivering precision-guided munitions in all weather conditions, and to use modern air-to-air weapons like the self-guiding Vympel R-77 (AA-12 ADDER) AAM.


Reporting about the PLA's possible purchase of the Su-30 first surfaced in 1997.[17]  By August 1999 agreement had been reached that China would purchase its first batch. In December 2000 the first ten Su-30MKKs were delivered to the PLAAF and the remainder were delivered from KnAAPO by the end of 2001.  It is possible that this first batch was stationed at Wuhu Air Base, which also hosts a Su-27SK unit, but now are in the Jinan MR. A second batch of 38 Su-30MKKs was likely ordered during a July 2001 Russia-China summit meeting and these were to be delivered by late 2003.


A development of the Su-27UBK twin-seat trainer, the Sukhoi Su-30MK twin-seat strike fighter made its debut in 1993.[18] The Su-30MKK contains two sets of weapon and flight controls that allow either crew member to fly or guide weapons, though the rear position is designed for a Weapons Systems Officer.  Both cockpits are dominated by two large multi-function displays and the pilot can also utilize a helmet-mounted sight. In close-in combat the Su-30MKK should be able to dominate older Northrop F-5Es and Lockheed-Martin F-16s not equipped with helmet-sighted missiles-which includes almost all the inventories for these types in Taiwan and in Southeast Asia.  As a strike fighter, the Su-30MKK will also have an impressive reach due to its aerial refueling capability.  Its advertised radius of 1,600km (960mi) extends to 2,600km (1,560mi) with one aerial refueling, and to 3,495km (2,095mi) with another. Such reach will become possible when the PLA purchases the Ilyushin Il-78M MIDAS tanker, which may do in 2004.


The 76 Su-30MKKs have the NIIP N001VE pulse-Doppler radar with a range of 90-110km vs. aerial targets, 250km vs. large naval targets, and can track up to 10 aerial targets.  The Su-30MKK has an improved OLS-30 Infrared Scan and Track system for passive air-to-air detection, laser ranging and some ground target designation.  The Su-30MKK carries the SAPSAN-E target designation pod, which uses a stabilized optical channel in a revolving head, to which TV (or a thermal-imaging camera as a future option), a laser rangefinder, and a laser target illuminator are attached.[19] The SAPSAN-E can guide the laser-cued version of the Region Bureau's KAB-1500, a massive 1,500kg TV-guided bomb that comes in FAE and deep-penetrating versions.  An unidentified version of this bomb along with about 2,000 Kh-29 short-range attack missiles were acquired by the PLAAF in 2002.  The Su-30MKK has 12 weapons pylons,10 of which can carry guided missiles.  The Su-30MKK's weapon package likely includes: the 160km range Kh-59M TV-guided missile; the 106km range Kh-31P ramjet-powered anti-radar/AWACS missile; the 12km range Kh-29T TV-guided missile; and a range of laser and TV-guided bombs. It can also carry the existing range of Russian AAMs to include the helmet-sighted Vympel R-73, the medium range semi-active radar guided R-27 and the medium-range active radar guided Vympel R-77. 


Revelations at the 2001 Moscow Airshow of the Kh-59MK, a 285km range active-guided anti-ship missile, and the Phazontron Bureau's Zhuk-M-S radar (140km range counter-air, 300km counter-ship) fueled speculation of a new variant of the Su-30MKK for the PLA Naval Air Force (PLANAF).  However in 2002, it was revealed that a new batch of 28 Su-30s intended for the PLA Navy, and initially designated Su-30MK2, would not have a new radar.  Instead, what is now more properly called the Su-30MKK2 incorporates an improved version of the N011VE and additional system that allow it to fire the 50km range Kh-31A anti-ship missile. 


At the 2003 Moscow Airshow Sukhoi displayed its Su-30MKK2 prototype with the Kupol M400 side-looking radar. Its reach is likely in excess of its 100km advertised range.  According to Taiwanese sources in 2003 a PLAAF Su-30 used a podded SAR to conduct reconnaissance of Western Taiwan.[20]  However, it cannot be determined that SAR radar used was the M400. Russian sources say the M400 allows a single Su-30MKK2 to control up to 10 other fighters,[21] and will thus give Su-30MKK units an organic but limited "AWACS" function to compliment other PLA ISR systems.  It is likely that so equipped, Su-30MKK2s may also be outfitted to fire additional Russian long-range anti-ship missiles like the Kh-59MK, the 300km range supersonic NPO Mashinostroyenia YAKHONT-M, newer extended range versions of the Kh-31 (Kh-31M), or even new PLA-designed missiles. Russian sources also indicate the PLAAF may update its Su-30MKK fleet to MKK2 standards-a move that would be consistent with doctrinal aspirations for "jointness."


It is less clear, however, whether the PLA will go ahead with a reported Su-30MK3 (MKK3) version.  One Russian source at the 2003 Moscow Airshow downplayed the prospects for this variant, which had been played up by another Russian official at the 2002 Zhuhai show.[22]  The latter had stated that the MKK3 would use advanced radar and might also feature an uprated AL-31 engine. Possible radar may include the aforementioned Phazotron Zhuk-M-S, a planar radar, and a new active phased array radar called the "Panda," being developed by the Tikomirov Bureau.  This radar could have a 190km range in a counter-air mode, or 300km counter-ship. Either radar would be able to support usage of the Kh-59MK missile.  But this new version would create new logistical requirements for the PLA that may not be worth a slight improvement in capability, especially if the new priority is to upgrade their entire Su-30 fleet to MKK2 standards.  Perhaps anticipating the requirement for a bridge to a true 5th generation fighter, Sukhoi is already marketing what it calls a 4++ generation fighter, a new version of the Su-37.  This fighter will incorporate an advanced thrust-vectored AL-31 engines, a new phased array radar, advanced avionics and countermeasures, a modified wing, and carry 8 tons of ordnance.[23] For the future, it appears the PLA will have the options of developing the Su-30MKK3, jumping to the new Su-37, or instead focusing on a new "indigensized" version of the J-11.


Sukhoi-Shenyang J-11

Length:   21.935m Wingspan:  14.698m  Wing Area:  62.04 sq.m

Engine:  2x Saturn AL-31F, 12,500kg max thrust; later versions: 2x WS-10A, 13,200kg max thrust   Fuel:   internal: 9,400kg

NTOW:  23,400kg  MTOW:  33,000kg

Max Speed:  M 2.35  Max Ceiling:  18,500m

Range:  S/L: 1,370km; altitude: 3,680km; later to include refueling capability

Weapons:  10 hardpoints; 8,000kg max load; 6x R-73 AAM; 6x R-27 AAM; up to 38 100kg bombs; 4x rocket pods; 1x GSh-301 30mm cannon w/ 150 rounds; possible initial upgrade: 6x R-77 AAM; 4x Kh-31A/P; 4x Kh-29; 4x KAB-500; 1x KAB-1500; later versions:  SD-10 active-guided AAM; new helmet-sighed short-range AAM; new supersonic anti-ship/radar attack missile

Radar:  Tikhomirov NIIP N001; 80-100km range; track 10x and engage 2x targets; future version to feature a new indigenous multi-mode radar; new indigenous targeting pod

Systems:  OLS-27 IRST, 80-100km range; Helmet Sight; SPO-15 RWR; IR/ 96x chaff/flare; Sorbitsya ECM; Spektr data link; possible initial upgrade: new MFDs and weapons computer to enable new AAMs and PGMs















After three years of delay on the Russian side,[24] in 1996, Sukhoi and the Shenyang Aircraft Co. (SAC) entered into a contract to co-produce up to 200 Su-27SKs. As it is "made" in China, it earns the designation J (Jian, for fighter) -11. In late 2000 a high Shenyang official noted that not all 200 Su-27s might be built[25] and there was other speculation that production would shift to more modern Su-30s. However, by late 2002 production was reaching an impressive rate, with a Russian source stating that Shenyang had at that point built "several dozen" Su-27SKs, or at least 48.[26] Nearly a year later Russian sources noted that another 48 had been assembled from 2002 to 2003.[27] If this rate is sustained the 1996 contract could be fulfilled by 2005-2006. Again, Russian sources say that following the completion of the 1996 contract, there will be a second co-production contract.[28]  At this point the number of new J-11s for the second contract is not known, but the longevity of SAC's J-11 program appears assured. 


Initially J-11s would be made from KnAAPO supplied kits with progressively increasing Chinese content. The first two which emerged in 1998 were said to be in such bad shape that KnAAPO engineers had to rebuild them. Starting in 2002 Russian sources noted that the production finish for SAC J-11s was better than that of KnAAPO.  They noted that Sukhoi had rebounded from the initial embarrassment by investing in modern tooling from Europe, Japan and even the United States.[29]


In mid-2002 the Shenyang Aircraft company revealed its intention to build upgraded multi-role versions of the single-seat J-11 by revealing a mock-up armed with Kh-31 ASMs and R-77 AAMs.  The mock-up had the number "2001," perhaps indicating that was the year Sukhoi and Shenyang agreed to the upgrade. There appear to be two paths for these upgrades.  The first follows the previously mentioned PLA-funded upgrade program that Sukhoi is now marketing for other customers. This would give J-11s made before and after 2002 a progressively better radar and attack avionics suite to support advanced anti-air, ground attack and naval attack weapons. 


But it also appears that the PLAAF may more ambitious plans for the J-11.  In mid-2002 Russian sources indicated Shenyang was also pursuing another multi-role version of the J-11 with high PRC content.[30] This was confirmed at the 2003 Moscow airshow. This second version apparently will feature a new Chinese multi-mode radar, avionics and possibly the WS-10A turbofan-which was tested on a J-11 in 2002. The new J-11 version is also expected to be armed with PLA-made weapons, to include the SD-10 active-guided AAM, and very likely, a new SRAAM in development, plus a range of attack munitions.  To the disappointment of some Sukhoi officials, this Shenyang version will not draw on Sukhoi intentions to produce a similar upgrade with Russian components, but much sooner.[31]  Perhaps reflecting "sour grapes," or considered doubts, a Russian official noted that it would take Shenyang "ten years" to produce an "indigenized" version of the J-11.[32]


Should this version prove a success, it would be a good candidate for the PLA Navy's first carrier-borne fighter. In contrast to the J-10, which is also identified as a candidate fighter for a future PLA Navy carrier, the J-11 does have a proven carrier-capable sibling in the Su-33. While the PLA so far lacks the funds for a CTOL carrier, a likely concept for one was recently put on display to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Harbin Technical University, the PRC's main military-technical school.  It is essentially a Russian Project 11435 Kuznetzsov-class carrier modified with PLA-origin SAMs, SSMs and CIWS.  A J-11 with higher thrust WS-10A engines might be able to handle the Russian-style ski-jump launching.  And as it built the Russian Navy's Su-33s, KnAAPO would be a ready source for potential carrier-related modifications for the J-11. 


While it may take another 10 years for Shenyang to fully "indigenize" the J-11, once they do a Russian source expects that China will market the fighter.[33]  Nevertheless, for a co-production program whose prospects for success were initially greeted with great skepticism in many Western quarters, Shenyang has made impressive progress and appears to be close to producing a new Chinese version of the J-11.  The Su-27SK/J-11 will be next in a long line of "Sinicized" Russian fighter designs.


Foreign Technology for the Shenyang J-8II FINBACK-B


Length:   21.59m Wingspan:  9.34m Wing area:  42.2m2

Engine:  J-8B:  2x WP13AII, 6,734kg max thrust; F-8IIM: 2x WP14, 7,014kg max thrust; J-8H, 2x Kunlun II, 7,600kg max thrust

NTOW:  14,300kg  MTOW:  18,879kg

Max Speed:  M 2.2  Ceiling:  20,200m  Range:  combat: 1,600km

Weapons: 5 hardpoints (7 for J-8IIM); 2,500kg+ max warload; 4x PL-5, PL-8 AAM; 2x PL-11 semi-active MRAM; F-8IIM: PL-9, R-27 AAM; J-8F/H: SD-10 AAM; all variants: 4x unguided rocket pods; 6x 500kg bombs; J-8F/H: possible use of PGMs; Type 23-3 2x 23mm cannon

Radar:  J-8B: Type 208 monopulse radar; J-8C: Elta EL/M 2034; F-8IIM: Phazotron Zhuk-8; J-8F/H: new indigenous pulse doppler radar, may be multi-mode

Systems:  RWR, HUD, MFD; jamming pods for electronic warfare version; data link ; J-8H, optical targeting system. 















            Since the late 1980s the Shenyang J-8II fighter has benefited from U.S., Russian and possibly Israeli-led efforts to upgrade this 3rd generation fighter.  J-8IIs were featured in the 1999 "intimidation" exercises over the Taiwan Strait.  But its most spectacular instance of "combat" was the April 1, 2001 collision off Hainan Island between a PLANAF J-8II and a U.S. Navy EP-3 ARIES ELINT/SIGINT surveillance aircraft, which resulted in the loss of the J-8II and its pilot, the "capture" and exploitation of the EP-3 and an 11-day incarceration for its crew.  It is likely that J-8IIs have subsequently intercepted U.S. surveillance aircraft.[34] 


            The PLAAF and PLANAF are credited by some with having about 240 J-8 fighters of all variants.  The J-8D with a fixed refueling probe, which first flew in 1990, was the first PLA fighter capable of mid-air refueling, and serves in both PLAAF and PLANAF units. There is also a strong possibility of an electronic warfare version of the J-8II, outfitted with jamming pods of with technology of Israeli origin or of indigenous design. But what is clear is that the J-8II has the subject of a great deal of both foreign and domestic upgrade efforts.  


            Before its post-Tiananmen cancellation, a centerpiece of the U.S.-PRC entente that had grown during the 1980s, was the "Peace Pearl" co-development program in which Grumman was to refit the U.S. APG-66 radar and U.S. avionics on to 50 J-8IIs.  In the wake of Grumman's exit, it now reported that Israel and Russia quickly stepped in 1990-1991 to complete "Peace Pearl."  Shenyang is reported to have obtained an Elta EL/M 2035 radar, which may have then influenced or become the basis for the Type 1471 radar.[35]  If true, this radar or its technology was likely shared with Shenyang in conjunction with technology sold to Chengdu to support the J-10 program. Designated the J-8C, a Chinese sources indicate that it first flew in 1992, and was certified in 1995, but did not enter PLA service.


            Russia tried hard but may have also failed to "capture" the J-8II upgrade program.  Russian had a strong start in the F-8IIM program which succeeded in replacing the radar with a Phazotron Zhuk variant, and arming it with the Vympel R-27 semi-active guided medium range AAM. It first flew in March 1996 but never scored export success, though Iran was a reported prospect in 1996.[36] Yet by 2001 it appeared that Russia might be back in the J-8 program. At the 2001  Paris Airshow it was disclosed that the PLA would purchase up to 100 new Phazotron ZHUK-8II radar, the same developed for the F-8IIM program, for a new indigenous version of the J-8II.  However, a dearth of subsequent reporting on this radar sale or its use by Shenyang casts doubt on the veracity of the initial reports.


            There is a possible explanation.  Following Peace Pearl, perhaps Shenyang was never serious about relying on a foreign partner to upgrade the J-8II, but may have been much more interested in using the respective talents of Israel and Russia to better inform subsequent Shenyang versions. Chinese sources indicate that the J-8C serves as the basis for two Shenyang variants that are active; the J-8F and J-8H.[37]  Their main difference is that the J-8H may have a slightly better indigenous radar and may use the new Kunlun II turbojet engines.  While the J-8F has been reported to have fired the new SD-10 MRAAMs, it would appear that the J-8H would be able to use them too.  Both likely have more modern cockpits with better HUD and MFDs, and may use an indigenous data-link revealed in 2000.  It is less clear how much both new variants will be able to use modern ground attack weapons, even though it appears this has long been Shenyang's intention.  


At the September 2003 Beijing Air Show a new display model of a J-8II offered some new information about the configuration of the modernized variant, using as its baseline the J-8D.[38]  The most distinguishing feature was a re-designed rear-empennage, plus a deeper ventral fin, which would support a new and more powerful engine-perhaps the Kunlun II.  In addition, the model featured a new slight protrusion under the nose, perhaps a new optical system which would support ground attack missions.  If it in fact is adopted by the PLAAF, then this latest J-8II version will have benefited from a long history of foreign technology contributions.



Foreign Assistance for the Chengdu J-10

Length:    14.57m  Wingspan:  8.78m  Wing area:  33m2 / canard area: 5.45m2

Engine:  1x Saturn AL-31FN, 12,500kg max thrust; later WS-10A, 13,200kg max thrust

MTOW:  19,227kg  Fuel:  internal: 4,500kg, up to 3x external drop tanks

Max Speed:  M1.85  Ceiling:   18,000m

Range:  internal fuel: 1,100km; with external fuel: 1,850km

Weapons: 7 hardpoints (could grow to 11); 4,500kg max warload; weapons likely to include:  PL-5, PL-8, PL-9C and future new helmet sighted short-range AAMs; SD-10 MRAAMs; anti-ship missiles; LGBs; unguided bombs and rockets; Type 23-3 2x 23mm cannon

Radar:  candidates include the Phazotron Zhuk, Zemchung; Israeli Elta EL/M 2035 or a new indigenous radar, identified as the NRIET Type 1473 (KLJ3), Est. performance, 150km range, track up to 20 targets, attack 4 targets

Systems:  Helmet sight/display; MFD; fly-by-wire; RWR; data link; eventually to include: targeting pod

* all estimated specifications
















Since early 2001 the once a deep secret Chengdu  J-10 has been revealed through a constant stream of leaked photos.  These photos, plus the clear disappointment by Chengdu officials that it did not appear at the 2002 Zhuhai Airshow, indicates Chengdu is gearing up to sell this fighter. For the PLAAF, the J-10 could prove to be its most important next-generation fighter program.  A 20-year development program has seen the J-10 evolve from an interceptor to a multi-role fighter to meet changing PLAAF requirements. A small number of prototype aircraft, perhaps 7-10, are now undergoing testing and evaluation. A twin-seat version is in advanced development[39] for training and possibly for attack missions.  It is rumored to have flown for the first time in late December 2003.  Mainland sources have reportedly stated that J-10 production will begin in 2004 with the goal of building 80 by 2005,[40] a prospect which could be doubted.  Russian sources estimate that 1,200 to 1,500 J-10s could be built over the program's lifetime.[41] 


The J-10 has succeeded due to PLA access to Israeli/U.S. and Russian technology.  While stemming from the Chengdu J-9 canard fighter program, starting in the early 1990s the J-10 was greatly influenced by Israeli Aircraft Industry's LAVI (Young Lion) fighter,[42] which in turn benefited enormously from U.S. technology and U.S. taxpayer funding for 40 to 90 percent of its $1.5 billion development cost.[43]  The Grumman Corporation was the main subcontractor for the wing and tail and the engine was a U.S.-built Pratt-Whitney PW 1120.[44] The LAVI exhibits broad similarities, including size, to the General Dynamics, now Lockheed-Martin F-16. The PLA is reported to have obtained a F-16A from Pakistan in the early 1990s to assist its fighter programs.[45] A Russian source who visited Chengdu in the early 1990s attested to evidence of Israeli assistance in the J-10 assembly area.[46] One list of possible Israeli systems reported to have been sold to the PLA to support the J-10 include:


Elta EL/M-2035 Multi-Mode Pulse Doppler Radar (or EL/M-2032 derivative)

Elta/Elisra EW System (possible)
            Lear Siegler/MBT Flight Control System: (unknown)
            Elta ARC-740 UHF radio system: (unknown)
            IAI Tamam INS (Inertial navigation system):  (transferred)
            Elbit SMS-86 Stores Management System: (unknown)[47]


Sale of the EL/M-2035 radar has been oft reported as has been probable Israeli assistance with the J-10's fly-by-wire system.  Both systems would have constituted clear advances for the PLA.  The EL/M-2035, though developed in the mid to late 1980s, was a remarkably modern multi-mode, anti-air and ground-attack, radar for its time.  Digital fly-by-wire technology was also sought after by the PLA to support the development of 4th generation fighters.  In the early 1990s the Chengdu CW-1 and the Shenyang J-8IIACT were produced to test experimental fly-by-wire systems. U.S.-origin technology in the J-10 may include avionics, advanced composite materials and flight control specification.[48] Fly-by-wire technology may have been shared as well.  Composite technology developed by Grumman for the Lavi's wing[49] might have been another technology of interest to the PLA.


From Russia Chengdu received additional design assistance and access to a Aluyka-Saturn turbofan with a repositioned gearbox, designated AL-31FN.  There were reports in 2001 that the PLA ordered 300 AL-3IFNs for the J-10.  It remains to be seen if these will materialize should development of the WS-10A turbofan make it a viable alternative.  Nevertheless, Saturn is marketing an uprated version of the AL-31 with a thrust-vectoring nozzle, which is also directed at the J-10.[50] 


In terms of performance, the J-10 is compared by some to the F-16C Block 30, [51]  which was the first F-16 to incorporate active radar guided AIM-120 AMRAAM.  The J-10 is nearly the same size and weight as the F-16C-each has a length of about 48-49ft and a maximum take-off weight in excess of 40,000lbs. Many leaked Internet-sourced photos affirm the influence of Israeli LAVI technology, especially the wing and canard, but also where it departs, such in the engine intake and empennage area.  While the canard clearly aids maneuverability, especially instantaneous turn rates, and allows for reduced landing speeds, it also inhibits effective stealth. The canard configuration, however, does have stability advantages if using a thrust-vectored engine,[52] and it is rumored that thrust-vectoring is slated for future models of the J-10.


The J-10 will be equipped with a multi-mode radar of yet unknown origin.  Reported possibilities include the Russian Phazotron ZHUK PD; ZEMCHOUG; or SOKOL phased array radar, and the Israeli Elta EL/M 2035.[53]  These radar would have the capability for multiple track and attack, and for ground attack.  It is also possible that the J-10 could carry a new indigenous radar influenced by Russian, Israeli or Italian technology.  This radar has been identified by some Chinese sources as the NRIET Co.'s Type 1473 or KLJ3,[54] a new planar array radar of unknown performance.  At the 2000 Zhuhai show Chendgu noted its F-7MF concept aircraft would feature a "multi-mode pulse doppler" with a range of 80km.  A more recent report notes the J-10's radar will have range of 150km while tracking 20 targets and simultaneously attacking four. [55]  The J-10 will have a modern "glass" cockpit and the pilot will also have a modern helmet-display system to aid counter-air and ground-attack operations.    


            Photos show that so far the J-10 has 7 hardpoints, three of which are plumbed for external fuel tanks.  There is some speculation that in future versions this could increase to 11 hardpoints, with 5 on the fuselage.  Leaked photos of the prototypes have only shown it to carry the PL-8, a copy of the Israeli Python-3 AAM, and a yet to be determined radar-guided medium range AAM. Potential future counter-air weapons could include the helmet sighted PL-9 or Russian R-73, or a new helmet-display sighted short-range AAM, plus the SD-10 or R-77 MRAAMs.  It remains to be seen whether full combat capable production version will allow carriage of a full range of ground-attack mentions.  But if the number of hardpoints does grow to include intake-mounted targeting or radar pods, then the J-10 can be expected to carry a range of TV or laser guided bombs, plus an assortment of longer range Russian or indigenous attack or anti-ship missiles. 


            In 1997 the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence speculated that a twin engine J-10 would be the PLA Navy's first carrier-borne fighter.  Though its canard configuration would cater to this mission, a navalized J-10 would require far stronger undercarriage. While such as yet to be revealed, a more likely prospect is a twin-seat trainer/dedicated attack variant already reported to be in development.[56]  And provided the WS-10A program succeeds, sales may come quickly.  Pakistan's difficulty in obtaining additional F-16s has prompted hints from China that it would consider selling a fighter of equivalent capability, which most likely would be the F-16-influenced J-10. 


Possible Russian Assistance for the Chengdu J-10A 5th Generation Fighter


Mikoyan Article 1.44

Status:  A broad similarity between the J-10A and the MiG 1.44 may indicate Chengdu-Mikoyan cooperation on a 5th generation fighter program, performance specifications for MiG 1.44:

Length: 22.8m Wingspan: 17m

Weight:  35,000kg max takeoff

Engine:  Saturn AL-41F, 40,000lb thrust with afterburner, thrust vectoring; or new indigenous engine

Performance:  SPEED:  918kt supercruise; RANGE: 4,500km

Armament:  New IR and Active radar guided AAMs, PGMs, internal carriage

Systems:  RADAR:  Advanced active phased array, integrated electroptical and ELINT systems; Possible plasma-stealth system; helmet display; glass cockpit; fly-by-wire











            Information from Chinese brochures, a popular Chinese technical magazine, and published interviews with Chengdu officials suggests that Chengdu is developing a candidate for the PLA's 5th generation fighter, called the J-10A.  It is possible that Chengdu's program may be less developed than that of Shenyang's, but its willingness to allow concept illustrations to be made public is consistent with previous Chengdu "marketing."  But it could also mean this program is vying for PLA funding.  Information released thus far suggests that Chengdu's design will be a single or twin-engined, twin-tailed canard with thrust vectoring and stealth features.[57]  It draws from the J-10, but also exhibits similarities to Mikoyan's 1.44 5th generation technology demonstrator, especially in the forward fuselage, canard, wing and large dimensions.  While there is no current reporting to confirm cooperation by Chengdu and Mikoyan, at about the time the Article 1.44 was unveiled in 1999, the PRC was reported in the Russian press to be offering to fund the MiG's new fighter in exchange for sales of future sales or co-production in the PRC.[58]  Nevertheless, Chengdu's recent revelations suggest that such cooperation did proceed eventually. Inasmuch as Sukhoi's proposal for Russia's 5th generation fighter has been chosen by the Russian government,[59] it would also make sense that MiG would sell its competing design to recoup its investment.


            Should the J-10A turn out to be based on the Mikoyan 1.44 project, then it would appear to be offering a larger and possibly more powerful contender than Shenyang's proposal for a 5th generation fighter. Chengdu's fighter would likely be larger than the Lockheed Martin F/A-22 and possibly have a longer unrefueled range. The MiG 1.42 uses two powerful Saturn AL-41 engines (about 40,000lbs thrust with afterburner) which allow the fighter to "supercruise," or fly at about Mach 1.4 to 1.6 while not using fuel-guzzling afterburners. Its canard configuration and large delta wing, plus expected engine thrust-vectoring will confer "supermaneuverability."[60]  Chengdu's design, like the 1.44, will also feature internal weapons carriage and a new powerful phased array radar. The F/A-22 shares most of these design features.  But in contrast to the F/A-22, the MiG 1.44 was reported to have employed Russia's plasma-stealth system, which surrounds the aircraft with ionic gas that is impervious radar. [61]  Its real beauty is that it allows avoidance of extensive stealth shaping of the airframe which may inhibit maneuverability. The PLA's penchant for redundancy may result in eventual success for Chengdu's program, especially if the largely domestic technology driven Shenyang program meets with delays.  While such an outcome would not bode well for the PLA's domestic aerospace technology progress, one can't ignore the quite considerable effort begin devoted to the PLA's next-generation combat aircraft. 


Foreign Assistance for the Chengdu FC-1 FIERCE DRAGON/ JF-17 THUNDER


Status: In initial flight testing, due to be produced for the Pakistan Air Force, uses Russian and European technology

Length:       14.3m     Wingspan:    8,98m

Engine:  1x Klimov RD-93 turbofan, 8,318kg max thrust

Fuel:  internal: 2,298kg

NTOW:    9,072kg  MTOW:   12,474kg

Max Speed:  M 1.8  Ceiling:  15,240m

Range:  ferry: 2,037km; ground attack: 1,400km

Weapons:  7 hardpoints; 3,629kg max warload; weapons likely to include up to 4x AIM-9;PL-5, PL-7, PL-8, PL-9C, Matra 550 short-range AAMs; 2x SD-10 MRAAM; 2x laser-guided bombs; 2x medium weight anti-ship missiles

Radar:  candidates include; FIAR Grifo S7 (Pakistan); Elta EL/M 2032; Phazotron Kopyo 

Systems:  RWR; MFD; HOTAS, ECM pods, targeting pod

















            Like the Shenyang J-8II, updating Chengdu's J-7II (MiG-21C) became a designated international cooperation program in the mid-1980s. After nearly 20 years development, on August 25, 2003 Chengdu tested the prototype for a new fighter, now called the FC-1 Xiaolong (Fierce Dragon) in the PRC, and the JF-17 Thunder in Pakistan.  But the greater benefit for Chengdu has been the opportunity to gain technology from U.S., Russian and European sources during this time.


            In initial impetus to update the J-7II is said to have come from Pakistan, which in 1986 asked Chengdu to design a cheaper fighter based on the J-7II, called "Saber II" by Pakistan and the J-7CP by Chengdu.[62] At this time British and U.S. companies competed to upgrade the fighter, with the U.S. Grumman Co. winning with its "Super-7" proposal as part of the larger "Peace Pearl" program also with Shenyang. It featured a radical redesign of the fuselage, replacing its single annular engine air intake with two side-intakes, to make room for a larger nose area for a better radar and electronics, but was aborted following the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. It was in the context of aiding this Chengdu program that Pakistan is said to have given the PLA a U.S. F-16A for reference.[63] There was also a failed attempt to sell the European RB-199 turbofan to support this program.[64]


            By 1992 the program was again recast when Chengdu enlisted the help of engineers from Russia's Mikoyan bureau, who drew on their MiG-33 design.  Unveiled again at the 1995 Paris Airshow, the renamed FC-1 sported a revised design and a Klimov RD-93 turbofan engine, a version of the RD-33 used on the MiG-29.  By the mid-1990s, delays over funding and testing raised doubts about the program's survival,[65] culminating in Chengdu's offering the F-7MF as a potential alternative.[66]  Nevertheless, the program was finally secure when a co-development contract was finally signed with the Pakistan Air Force in 1999.  A full scale mockup was unveiled in 2001, and it was the centerpiece of the AVIC-1 display at the 2002 Zhuhai show.  Pakistan's support for the program followed repeated failures by Islamabad to secure a shipment of F-16As that Washington had embargoed in the early 1990s.  Pakistan has a stated requirement for 150 JF (Joint Fighter) -17 Thunder fighters.  Some degree of co-production will also take place in Pakistan. 


            It is interesting to note that the FC-1 final design development process may have benefited from the computerized design technologies acquired for the J-10 program.[67] While Pakistan apparently favors the FIAR Grifo S7 multi-mode radar for its JF-17 version, the FC-1 can also use Israeli, Russian or new-type PLA fighter radar. And while somewhat smoky as seen during the FC-1's test flight, the RD-93 turbofan does offer significant improvement over the J-7's turbojet engines.  That the PLA allowed its new Louyang SD-10 active guided AAM to be displayed on the 2001 FC-1 mockup with Pakistani flags is a strong indication that this advanced missile will arm the JF-17.  It can also be expected to carry on its wingtip mounts Chinese, U.S. and European short-range AAMs.  The FC-1 is also marketed as capable of carrying laser-guided PGMs and their targeting pods.  The FC-1 is said to have 75 percent of the capability of the F-16 for only half the price.[68] 


            Despite the intense interest and reporting in China on the August 25 maiden flight of the Chengdu FC-1, and its apparent success in securing financial support from Pakistan, it remains unclear whether the PLA will purchase this fighter.  It has long been reported that Pakistan has favored the PLA's purchase of some number of FC-1s to guarantee logistical support.  At the 2003 Dubai Airshow an AVIC 1 official noted that the PLAAF was "interested in a full multirole variant," but that it "has yet to formalize its requirement."  He noted that PLA Navy was also showing interest in the program.[69] No doubt that would be welcome by Chengdu as well, which is marketing the fighter as a follow-on to the Northrup F-5E and MiG-21 series.  The potential that the PLA could purchase this fighter warrants its close watching.  Arguing against PLA acquisition is its added expense compared to the J-7G, the latest production version of the long-running J-7II, reliance on a foreign engine and its current unavailability; production is not due to commence until 2005.  


Foreign Components, Influence on the Chengdu J-7 MG/PG/G

Status:  J-7s modified with British and Italian radar sold to Pakistan, foreign technology contributing to latest J-7G in PLAAF

Length:14.88m   Wingspan: 8.32m

Weight: 7700kg (J-7G) 

Engine: Wopen WP-13F, 14,550 lb thrust with afterburner  Performance: SPEED: Mach 2 at altitude, CEILING: 17,300m; RANGE: 1,900km

Armament: AAM: 2x PL-5, PL-8, AIM-9 ( PL-9C, J-7G), unguided rockets, bombs,1x  30mm cannon

Systems: RADAR: F-7MG, GEC-Marconi Super Skyranger with 9.3 mile range; F-7PG, Grifo 7PG, 55km range; J-7G, FALCON radar; HUD, Helmet sight (J-7G),RWR, ECM














While the PLA has pursued 4th generation modern fighter aircraft it has also sought to maintain a large number of cheaper short-range defensive fighter aircraft. The cheap fighter of choice for the 1990s and today is the Chengdu J-7 with about 400 of various types believed to be in PLAAF service. But the PLA has also sough to upgrade the J-7 with Western radar and avionics.  Thought at first to be an attempt to bolster exports, Chengdu revealed its F-7MG at the 1996 Zhuhai Airshow.  At the time it was the most advanced development of the J-7, a copy of the Mikoyan MiG-21F short-range interceptor.  This aircraft took the J-7E, which introduced a new double-delta wing to improve maneuverability, and added a GEC-Marconi Super Skyranger pulse-doppler radar. Though it only had a short range, this radar, when combined with a modern head-up display (HUD), gave this fighter an added capability for dog fighting.  The J-7MG was sold to Pakistan with a more capable Italian Grifo-7PG radar at the F-7PG.  While this fighter could be equipped with a helmet-sighted missile like the PL-9, that is not known to have happened.


In 2002 Chengdu unveiled yet another version of the J-7, the J-7G, of which about 24 have been produced by the end of 2003.[70]  This is believed to be the PLAAF's version of the F-7PG sold to Pakistan.  The J-7G features a new radar called the FALCON.  This could be an indigenous radar based on the Grifo-7PG, the Italian radar itself, or something completely different.  Ominously, Chengdu's web site description of the J-7G notes that it is equipped with a helmet sight,[71] indicating that these PLAAF J-7s are now carrying these deadly missiles.  This is most likely the Louyang PL-9C, the latest development of the PL-9, which is a copy of the Python-3/PL-8 short-range AAM.  While the J-7G does not have the ability to fire the latest long-range active-guided AAMs, and may not be as maneuverable at the F-16A, for short-range combat its deficiencies are more than compensated for by its helmet-sighted AAM. 



British and Russian Technology for the Xian JH-7A FLOUNDER


Status:  Now in production for the PLA Navy, using British engine technology and Russian weapons

Length:    21m  Wingspan:  12.7m   Wing area:  52.3m2

Engine:  2x QinLing turbofan, or WS-9 turbofan unknown strength but in excess of 9,325kg max thrust

MTOW:  28,475kg

Max Speed:  M 1.7 Ceiling:  15,600m Range:  combat: 3,300km

Weapons:  11 hardpoints; 9,000kg max warload; 2x PL-5, 2x PL-8, 2x PL-9C AAM; SD-10 AAM; Kh-31 ASM; C-801/802 ASM; new supersonic ASM; LGB; medium range LACM; rocket pods and bombs; Type 23-3 2x 23mm cannon

Radar:  CLETRI JL-10A, 104km range; or a new more capable multi-mode radar

Systems:  CLETRI "Blue Sky" navigation and targeting pod, or a new smaller targeting pod; RWR; HUD; MFDs; chaff/flares
















            The PLA's desire for indigenous programs, its need to rapidly increase its number of attack aircraft, and the revival of a relationship with Britain's Rolls Royce engine company all conspired in the late 1990s to save the Xian JH-7 fighter-bomber program, all at a time when the PLA was buying the arguably superior Su-30MKK. While the JH-7 program began in 1975 the first one did not fly until 1988.[72]  But by the early 1990s, the PLA's heightened requirements for strike aircraft saw Xian's program revive, with the formal unveiling of its FBC-1 Flying Leopard export version at the 1998 Zhuhai show.[73]  By the late 1990s about 15-20 JH-7s were produced, all serving in a PLANAF unit near Shanghai.  It is now slated to be produced in larger numbers in a more advanced variant, all of which was made possible by a revival of the PLA's relationship with Rolls Royce.


            The first batch of 50 Rolls Royce Spey 202 engines purchased in 1975 supported all initial production for the JH-7.  For almost 20 years the PLA tried but failed to copy the Spey.  By the 1990s it was deemed to costly to redesign the fighter for the Russian Saturn AL-31 turbofan.  It appears that by 1998 the PLA was ready to go back to Rolls Royce and pay for technology to permit co-production. The PLA reportedly purchased another 80-90 used Spey 202s, acquired by 2001, and entered into a new co-development program which would enable the PLA to finally produce its own version.[74]  This is very likely the "new" QinLing turbofan revealed in July 2003.[75] If it is an uprated version of the Spey, as some sources suggest, that would meet a longstanding JH-7 requirement for greater power. A 2001 report noted that if successful, the new engine co-production program could lead to the construction of another 150 JH-7s.[76]  And in early December 2003 the PRC's CCTV carried footage of new JH-7s in production, which appeared to be a new version of the fighter-bomber.   


            At the 2000 Zhuhai show, Xian surreptitiously revealed that it was making a new variant of the JH-7. First seen in an obscure brochure sporting a Kh-31 ASM, a clearer photo was released in 2001 with the fighter clearly labeled the "JH-7A." It is reported to have made its first test flight in July 2002.[77] In the photo it has what appears to be 11 hardpoints, up from 7, and sports a new range of munitions, to include the heavy PL-8 AAM, the Kh-31 supersonic ASM, a C-801 ASM, and a new-type laser-guided bomb. The JH-7A also features an upgraded radar and fire control system, new digital cockpit displays, greater use of composite materials to reduce weight, and possible use of fly-by-wire technology.[78]  Ordinance hardpoints are increased to 11, including two the air intakes for targeting or guidance pods, and maximum warload increases from about 6,000kg to 9,000kg.  At the 2000 and 2002 Zhuhai shows models of the JH-7 also featured a new ramjet-powered ASM similar in design to the French ASMP, but likely more comparable in performance to the Kh-31.  Also, at the 2001 Beijing Airshow a JH-7 model carried a new cruise missile which resembled a turbojet powered version of the FL-2 anti-ship missile.


PLA Interest in the French Dassault RAFALE


Status:  Reported PLA interest in the RAFALE in 1996-97, could be revived if the European Union Arms embargo is lifted

Length: 15.27m Wingspan: 10.8m Weight: 24,500kg max weight

Powerplant: 2x SNECMA M88-2 turbofans, 16,850 lb thrust with reheat 

Performance: Mach 2 at high altitude, 1,055km radius for attack missions, 1,759km for air superiority missions 

Armament: Matra Magic short-range AAM, MICA medium-range AAM, laser-guided bombs, anti-ship missiles, medium-range cruise missiles.

Systems: RBE2 fixed-array scanning, tracking and mapping radar, range, about 60mi, FLIR, IRST, Spectra automated defensive system including ECM, laser warning, jamming, decoys, chaff, flares, Topsite helmet display, advanced cockpit displays, JTIDS equivalent 













In April 1997, Flight International reported that France was trying to sell China the Dassault RAFALE 5th-generation fighter-attack aircraft by linking it to sale of the SNECMA M88 engine that China may have an even greater interest in purchasing.  Chinese officials had visited the Dassault plant last year, presumably during the European tour of PLA leader Liu Huaqing, and Dassault and SNECMA officials have "spent considerable time in Beijing."[79] Such discussions appeared at about the same time as reports of PLA interest in the retiring French aircraft carrier Clemenceau.  However, the PLA did not buy this fighter in the mid-1990s and instead proceeded with new Russian and indigenous fighter designs.  However, should the European Union lift its 1989 embargo forbidding the sale of arms to the PLA, it is likely that it will revisit its previous interest in the RAFALE. 


            The PLA would have a continuing interest in the RAFALE as it is one of the most advanced Western 5th-generation fighter/attack aircraft now entering service. In addition, inasmuch as a great deal of French defense technology is unknown to the U.S., purchasing this aircraft would serve to further complicate the challenge for U.S. defenders. Save for a stealthy airframe design, the RAFALE will incorporate many of the latest Western capabilities in composite structure design, engine, radar, defensive electronics, targeting and cockpit systems, plus the latest in anti-air and anti-ground target munitions.[80]  The RAFALE's phased array radar would also expose the PLA to this state-of-the-art French system. The Spectra automatic defensive electronics and decoy system is one of the world's most advanced aircraft protection systems, and also would significantly advance China's knowledge of these technologies. 


            Purchasing the naval variant of the RAFALE-M would also benefit any potential program to build naval variants of other fighters like the J-10. This prospect is significant inasmuch as the U.S. Navy provided advice and assistance that enabled the RAFALE-M to become carrier qualified.  The RAFALE-B is a twin-seat dedicated attack version that could also serve to expand PLA all-weather attack capabilities. It is also possible that an early change in the EU Embargo would see the French first sell the M88 engine, which would provide useful insights to updating the PLA's engine sector and provide an advanced small engine for new PLA fighter and trainer designs. 


PLA Interest in Advanced Russian Bombers


Tupolev Tu-22M3

Status:  Reports of PLA interest in purchasing the BACKFIRE

Length: 42.46m Wingspan: 34.28m  Weight: max T-O, 124,000kg

Powerplant: 2x Kuznetzov NK-25 turbofans, 55, 115 lbs thrust with afterburner

Performance: SPEED: Mach 1.88 at high altitude; RANGE: 1,300 mi radius

 Armament: 2x AS-4 Kitchen ASM, 185 mi to 285 mi range, nuclear or conventional-armed ; 6x AS-16  Kickback air-to surface missile, 62 mi to 95 mi range nuclear or conventional-armed; AS-17 Krypton ASM or anti-radiation missile, in versions with ranges from 31 mi to 125 mi; or up to 52,900 lbs or bombs or mines

Systems:  Down Beat targeting and navigation radar  


Sukhoi Su-34

Status:  Reports of PLA interest in this advanced Sukhoi fighter-bomber

Length: 23.34m  Wingspan: 14.7m   Weight: 38,240kg normal takeoff

Powerplant: 2x Saturn AL-31F

Performance: SPEED:  Mach 2 at altitude; RANGE: 4,000km on internal fuel

Armament:  8,000kg total;   


















There have been reports of Chinese interest in purchasing the TU-22M Backfire intermediate range bomber to begin to replace its aging TU-16/ H-6 bombers, which ended production in the early 1980s.  One source notes China originally approached Russia to buy this aircraft in 1993.[81]  In the mid-1990s sources in Taiwan noted that China remained interested in this bomber and that a sale is still possible.  It is now known that instead of the politically provocative BACKFIRE, the PLA opted for the less expensive and more flexible Su-30MKK to meet its evolving requirements for long-range attack capability.


Nevertheless, the PLA retains a requirement to replace its obsolete H-6 bombers with a new medium-to-long range bombing platform. But if its proceeded to purchase the BACKFIRE, it would have to do so from the existing inventory of Russian bombers, production of which ended in 1993. Russia produced 268 TU-22M-3s, the type most likely to be preferred by the PLA, as it carries a wider range of weapons. 


            In the BACKFIRE the PLA would obtain a large supersonic bomber capable of long ranges if modified for in-flight refueling.  It would carry a larger conventional weapons load than any other attack aircraft in the PLAAF inventory.  While currently modified to carry two AS-4 ASMs, and smaller attack missiles, the TU-22M-3 could be modified to carry newer and smaller Russian cruise missiles like the YAKHONT or future land attack cruise missiles.  Should it acquire the Backfire the PLA could assemble a more formidable array of missile, aircraft, and submarine systems to attack U.S. aircraft carrier task groups in Asia.


There are also reports that China is interested in purchasing the new Sukhoi Su-32 long-range strike fighter.[82]  It is about the same size and class as the U.S. F-111 and F-15E, but unlike both, it has provisions for greater crew comfort and is capable of 10-hour missions.  With aerial refueling, the Su-32 could undertake armed long-endurance patrols over the South China Sea, or strikes out to the Second Island Chain.  It carries a long-range phased array radar and can carry the entire range of Russian air-launched weapons.  It is also designed to be survivable in a low-level combat environment by virtue of a titanium "tub" to protect the crew.  There are reports that a future Russian Air Force version will be equipped with a plasma stealth generator.[83]  It is likely that the PLA would insist on this system if it were to buy the Su-32.


Also of concern should be possible Sino-Russian cooperation toward a new indigenous PLA bomber.  In late 2003 Russia announced that it would be developing a new manned bomber to succeed its Tu-160 and Tu-22M3 bombers.  While it is not known what form this new aircraft will take, for some time Sukhoi has proposed its T-60S stealth bomber.  Its stealth features could include top-fuselage mounted air-intakes, use of stealthy radar reflective materials and a plasma stealth generator.[84]  However, replacing its H-6 bombers with a new similar sized aircraft does not appear to be a current PLA priority.  This could change however, should the PLA succeed in taking Taiwan, after which it would have the resources to devote to such a program.









European and Israeli and AWACS Systems and Technology


Thales/Racal SKYMASTER

Status:  4-6 radar systems reported sold to PLA in 1996, now used for at least two Y-8 MPA

Type: rotating array

Performance:  200km detection range


British Aerospace/GEC Marconi ARGUS

Status:  Longstanding sales effort to PLA possibly curtailed by late 1990s

Type: two planar semi-rotating arrays



Erickson PS-890 ERIEYE

Status:  No reports of sales to PLA but the PLAAF is testing a similar system

Type: S-Band Active Phased Array

Performance:  450km maximum detection range, 300km detection range for fighter-size target, has sea surveillance mode



Status:  Sale of up to six PHALCON-equipped Il-76s to PLA stopped by U.S. in July 2000

Type:  L-Band active phased array 

Performance:  398km detection range; 100 target tracking; integrates ELINT/SIGINT/COMINT/IFF functions






















Achieving an effective airborne warning, surveillance and intelligence capability has been an ongoing objective for the PLA.  Early efforts include mounting a saucer-radar on the AP-1, a modified Tu-2 (B-29) copy.  The PLA even considered mounting a radar on top of a Shaanxi Y-10, an effort to copy a Boeing 707, resulting in a near facsimile the U.S. E-3 SENTRY AWACS.[85]  Since February 1993 the PLAAF has organized its AWACS program under its Project 932 office.[86]  At the end of 2003 one can count at least three active AWACS programs: integration of the Racal/Thales SKYMASTER radar on a Shaanxi Y-8 for the PLA Navy; purchase of an advanced model of the Beriev A-50E AWACS for the PLAAF; and development of an indigenous planar phased array radar mounted atop a Y-8, most likely for the PLAAF.  But the 1990s also saw two unsuccessful efforts, the cancellation of the advanced Israeli PHALCON radar after U.S. pressure, and the lengthy but apparently unsuccessful effort by Britain's GEC Marconi to sell its ARGUS radar. 


The first modern airborne surveillance radar purchased by the PLA was the Racal (now Thales) SKYMASTER radar.  Building on its relationship with the PLA established through the 1980s sale of its CYMBERLINE artillery radar, the purchase of 6-8 SYKMASTER systems was revealed in August 1996.[87] These were to be fitted to Y-8 transports and work to that end was reported to have started later in 1996.[88]  By 2001 Internet-source images were appearing of the resulting aircraft.  The SKYMASTER is a version of the Racal SEARCHWATER radar used by British NIMROD patrol aircraft, on which it can detect objects as small as a submarine periscope.  At first British sources justified the sale of the SKYMASTER to assist PRC coastal anti-piracy patrol missions. But in early 2000 reports emerged that the PLA was using its SKYMASTER-equipped Y-8s to vector a LUDA-class destroyers in naval exercises.[89] At altitude the Y-8/Skymaster could be used to support naval battles, especially with long-range targeting for submarines and ships, or by vectoring offensive or defensive aircraft. 


Perhaps dating back to the late 1980s, the British company GEC Marconi attempted to sell an updated version of its ARGUS radar to the PLA.  The ARGUS was developed in the 1970s and 1980s to meet a Royal Air Force requirement for an AWACS aircraft.  But successive technical difficulties and cost overruns forced its cancellation in favor of purchasing the U.S. E-2 AWACS.  The ARGUS used a unique configuration of two semi-rotating planar arrays mounted at both ends of the fuselage, with the radar data integrated to produce a 360 degree picture.  GEC Marconi proposed for the PLA that it fit the ARGUS on to an Ilyushin Il-76,[90] but Russia delayed such a deal to advance the sale of it's A-50 AWACS.  By 1998 the sales negotiations were reported deadlocked.[91]  But at a minimum, it is likely that the PLA learned a great deal about the underlying technology for this radar.  This could have been their main objective in pursuing such long negotiations with GEC Marconi.  


            A final potential source of European AWACS technology may be the Swedish Ericsson PS-890 ERIEYE active phased array radar.  In early 2002 an Internet source picture appeared of a Y-8 with a planar array similar in shape to the ERIEYE.  This is reported to be an active PLA program.[92]  In addition, Internet source pictures have appeared of a model of a smaller Y-7 transport with the same radar.  The radar shown in this later image bears a greater similarity to the ERIEYE.  Inasmuch as Sweden has sold some military hardware to the PLA, such as Special Force speed boats and armored personnel carriers, it is possible that it has sold the ERIEYE or its associated technology to the PLA.  It is also possible that the PLA has developed this technology indigenously.  Should the PLA's ERIEYE-like radar have a capability similar to the Swedish system, then it would have an impressive maximum search range of 450km.  Because it is a phased array system, it is capable of long-range "spot" modes in addition to wide search modes.  The PLA would favor this technology because as Israel has proven, it can be adopted to incorporate intelligence missions, and as the U.S. has proven, can also be adopted to perform ground-mapping and targeting missions.


            The far greater technological potential for active phased array radar was the key reason the PLA persisted with Israel's offer to sell its Elta PHALCON AWACS system through the 1990s.  The PLA wanted the PHALCON placed in a radome above an Ilyushin Il-76.  But like the GEC-Marconi ARGUS, Russia sought to impede the Israeli offer by denying the sale of the Ilyushin transport.  But unlike the British, by 1997 the Israelis were able to overcome Russian objections, settled during a summit between Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu and Russian President Boris Yeltsin that March.[93]  A formal agreement between the Russians and Israelis was reached at the Paris Airshow that year. The first Il-76 was flown to Israel for modification in late 1999 and by early 2000 the PLA was indicating if would purchase up to five more.  However, this Israeli-Russian deal served to push official Washington to the breaking point over Israel's growing military-technical relationship with the PLA.  Starting with the public opposition of President Bill Clinton to the sale, his Administration and leading members of the U.S. Congress proceeded to convince Israel to cancel the sale, which it did in July 2000. 


            This new version of the A-50 was known as the A-50I. The clear performance advantages offered by the PHALCON served to ensure that the PLA would insist that Israel persist in pushing the deal. The Israeli radar would have offered advantages in stealth and flexibility, and the potential for considerable upgrades over its lifetime. The PHALCON is an active phased array radar that operates in the L-Band, which is good for long-range detection.  The radar itself would was to be placed in a fixed position in a radome atop the aircraft. Unlike other AWACS the PHALCON is able to integrate radar search and intelligence gathering functions to a new level.  Its phased array radar can conduct broad and long-distance spot searches, and use electronic intelligence, signals intelligence, communication intelligence and identification friend-or-foe (IFF) to produce a total picture of the target environment.[94] This perhaps is why as recent as late 2001 China persisted in trying to convince Washington to reverse its decision.[95]



Status:  PLAAF reported training on 2x A-50U and reported to want 4-5x new A-50E

Length: 46.59m  Wingspan: 50.5m  Wing Area: 300m2 Weight:  190,000kg max take-off

Engines:  4x Aviadvigatel D-30KP turbofans, 26,455lb thrust

Crew:  15 total, 5 for aircraft, 10 system operators

Performance: SPEED: 425kts  ENDURANCE: 7.7 hrs maximum endurance

Systems: RADAR:  Shmel-2, Detection range, 220-240km, Number of Airborne Targets Tracked, 50-60; Upgraded Shmel, Detection Ranges: bomber, 650km; fighter, 300km; ground targets, 250km; Number of Airborne Targets Tracked, 300











            The most important foreign AWACS system purchase may be the Russian Beriev A-50E. Soon after Israel bowed to intense U.S. pressure in and in July 2000 cancelled its deal to put its Elta PHALCON phased-array radar on a Berive A-50, the PLA turned to Russia to fill its AWACS requirement.  This was sweet revenge for Russia, which until 1996 had sought to monopolize the sale of AWACS to the PLA by preventing Israel from obtaining an Ilyushin Il-76 to carry its radar. By November 2000 Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov was announcing an impending deal that would have the PLA train on two existing Russian Air Force A-50s, while Russia would then build five more advanced A-50s for $180 to $200 million each.[96]  Another report notes that the PLA will buy four new A-50s.[97]  An agreement may have been signed for these aircraft in 2001,[98] but at the 2003 Moscow Airshow a Beriev official discounted such reports.[99]


As it stands, the A-50E would perhaps be the most advanced version of this Russian AWACS aircraft.  Revealed at the 2001 Moscow Airshow, its AK RLDN radar system can detect a bomber-size target at 650km, a fighter at 300km, can track up to 300 targets and command 12 fighters.[100] This would constitute a vast improvement over the Shmel-1 and Shmel-2 radar systems in service with the Russian Air Force that often encountered problems.  The early A-50s were also criticized for their lack of sanitary facilities, a particular concern for crews on long flights.[101]  It is not known how the PLA has addressed that concern.  But with the new radar, systems operators will benefit from modern flat-panel display stations, which are likely much more reliable than early A-50 radar systems. At the 2000 Zhuhai show officials said that China would build the data link for the PLAAF's A-50s. On internal fuel, the A-50 with D-30KP engines can remain on station for four hours at a point over 500mi from its base, which can be extended with refueling.  Russian officials did note that if the PLAAF followed Russian training procedures, it would take 1.5 years to train a crew to operate the A-50E.[102]


Foreign Assistance for SAR and ELINT Aircraft



Status:   The PLA has benefited from foreign technology in developing advanced synthetic aperture radar aircraft


Tupolev Tu-154

Length: 47.9m   Wingspan: 37.55m  Weight: 90,000kg max weight

Engines:  3x Aviadvigatel D-30KU-154-II, 23,830 lb thrust

Performance:  SPEED:  900 km/h    RANGE:  6,600km









In late 2000 a Tu-154M of China United Airlines was photographed with what appeared to be a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) structure under the fuselage.[103]  The configuration is similar but shorter to that on the U.S. E-8 JSTARS.  The PLA has been developing ground-mapping SAR systems, some based on technology from the U.S. Loral Corporation.  Loral SAR systems were sold to the PLA in the 1980s and placed on aerial survey aircraft which were used for environmental monitoring.  In the 1990s Loral sought to convince the Clinton Administration to wave U.S. export restrictions that it could sell additional SAR technology.[104]  In addition, the PLA has also likely had access to Russian airborne SAR technology.[105] China United Airlines has 16 Tu-154Ms that would be likely candidates for conversion to EW/ELINT/SAR platforms.  


Ilyushin Il-76MD/TD CANDID


Status:  PLAAF has 12 to 20 and is reported to be buying another 20

Length: 46.59m  Wingspan: 50.5m  Wing Area: 300m2 Weight:  190,000kg max take-off 

Engines:  4x Aviadvigatel D-30KP turbofans, 27,575lb thrust

Crew:  5

Performance: SPEED: 459kts  RANGE: 4,200km with 40ton payload; PAYLOAD: 47-50 metric tons









            With its 1991 purchase of the Ilyushin Il-76MD, the PLAAF acquired its first modern strategic military transport aircraft.  It fulfilled a longstanding requirement; in the 1960s Xian Aircraft Co. tried but failed to develop its Y-9 turbofan powered transport that was about the same size at the Il-76 and the U.S. C-141 transports. The PLAAF is variously reported to have acquired 12 to 20 Il-76s so far.[106] The Il-76 fleet is thought be attached to the PLAAF 13th Division and much of its work is dedicated to the 15th Airborne Army, often seen in its exercises.  Its 47-50 ton payload is sufficient to carry light airborne tanks like the BMD-3 and a number of light gun or missile-armed APCs or wheeled vehicles very likely intended for PLA airborne units.  With a lighter load, about 30 tons, the Il-76 can land on unprepared strips.  Some Il-76s are seen in the markings of China United Airlines, a PLAAF owned airline, and one has been pictured in the markings of the state-owned China Ocean Shipping Co. (COSCO).[107] In 2000 and 2001 Russian reports noted that the PLA might purchase more Il-76s, with numbers ranging from 10 to 40 more aircraft.[108] And again in 2003, following the Moscow Airshow, reports surfaced that the PLA would purchase another 20 Il-76MD or Il-76TD transports, to support a new Airborne Division that was to be formed.[109]  This acquisition was reportedly discussed in December 2003 during the visit of PLA Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan.[110]




Ilyushin Il-78MD MIDAS Aerial Refueling Aircraft


Status:  PLAAF reported to be buying 4x

Length: 46.59m  Wingspan: 50.5m  Wing Area: 300m2 Weight:  190,000kg max take-off

Engines:  4x Aviadvigatel D-30KP turbofans, 27,575lb thrust  Crew: 5

Performance: SPEED: 459kts  RANGE: 3,650km w/ max payload; PAYLOAD: up to 138,000kg fuel

FUEL TRANSFER:  1000km, 60 tons; 2,500km, 30 tons









            Having long observed how the U.S. Air Force perfected aerial refueling to enable global power projection, the PLAAF has long desired its own aerial refueling capability to extend the strike range and endurance of its combat aircraft. In the 1980s and 1990s it concentrated on converting a small number of H-6 bombers to refueling tankers.  Knowing of the PLAAF's desire, Ilyushin has spent many years promoting the Il-78M in China, beginning with its appearance at the 1996 Zhuhai Airshow.[111]  In 2001 Jane's Defence Weekly reported that the PLAAF would order four Ilyushin Il-78M MIDAS dedicated tanker versions of the Il-76 transport.[112] PLA intentions to acquire the Il-78 were reportedly given a boost in December 2003 during the visit of Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan.[113] 


            Should it enter service, the PLAAF will have a far more capable tanker than the H-6U/HU-6.  The Il-78M can carry a maximum load of 304,233lbs (138 tons) of fuel, of which 233,068 lbs (105 tons) is transferable.[114]  The Il-78M can transfer 60 to 65 tons of fuel out to 1,800km (1,080mi) and 32-34 tons out to 4,000km (2,400mi).[115]  The PLAAF is thought to be purchasing its Il-78Ms in conjunction with its A-50E AWACS so the tankers can be expected to support the AWACS aircraft.  But it can also support the Su-30MKK, which has an internal fuel capacity of 20,723lbs.  One unconfirmed 2002 report out of Taiwan noted that the PLAAF may even be converting some of its Il-76MD transports to tankers.[116]





Ukrainian Antonov Cooperation with the Shaanxi Corporation


Antonov An-70

Status: Ukraine is seeking Chinese investment or co-production to keep this program alive

Length: 40.73m  Wingspan: 44.06m   Weight: 130,000kg max takeoff

Engines: 4x Progress D-27 turboprop, 13,800hp, driving 14 blade contra-rotating propellers

Performance: SPEED: 432kt  RANGE: 3,800km w/ max payload  PAYLOAD: 35 tons


Antonov 124-300 RUSLAN

Status: Active Ukrainian efforts to enlist Chinese investment or co-production

Length: 69.1m  Wingspan: 73.3m  Weight: 405,000 + kg

Engines: 4x Western turbofans

Performance:  SPEED:  468+kts  RANGE: 8,000+km w/max payload  PAYLOAD: 150 tons


Shaanxi Y-8F-600

Status:  Active Antonov-Shaanxi cooperation program since at least 2000

Length: 33.1m  Wingspan: 38m   Weight:  65 ton max takeoff

Engines: 4x Pratt Whitney Canada PW150 turboprops

Performance:  SPEED: 650 km/h   RANGE:  4,900km   PAYLOAD:  20 tons


Shaanxi Y-8-X

Status:  Reported to be an active Antonov-Shaanxi cooperation program

Length:36.8m  Wingspan: 42.8   Weight:  81 tons max takeoff

Engines: 4x turboprops with 6 blade propellers

Performance:  SPEED: 570km/h cruise RANGE: 2,500km w/max payload PAYLOAD: 30 tons


























            The Ukraine-based Antonov Aeronautical Scientific-technical Complex (ASTC) aircraft company and the Shaanxi Aircraft Co. have resumed cooperation in the development and production of military transport aircraft following the hiatus of the Sino-Soviet split.  If this cooperation develops as per Antonov's wishes, then the PLA will not only modernize its transport making capability but may be able to obtain its first very large strategic military transport aircraft.  Given its increasingly problematic relationship with its Russian patrons and declining orders, Antonov has devoted increasing effort in the last decade to develop business and cooperation in the PRC.  For many years the PLAAF's main large transport was the Shaanxi Y-8, a copy of Antonov's An-12 CUB turboprop powered transport.  A late-1950s design, the An-12 was the Soviet contemporary to the Lockheed-Martin C-130 HURCULES.  Shaanxi had difficulties perfecting its CUB copy and only a small number were built. In the late 1980s Shaanxi enlisted Lockheed to properly pressurize the Y-8 fuselage.  Lockheed also sold two C-130L-100s to the PRC before U.S. Tiananmen sanctions went into effect.


            By the early to mid 1990s Antonov was looking to revive its China business and by the late 1990s was beginning to meet with some success.  By the 2000 Zhuhai Airshow both had come together to develop the Y-8F-600.[117]  This is an effort to make the Y-8 into an effective and reliable transport.  Antonov apparently is supplying design, engineering and production know-how, and may assist with designing a new cockpit and control systems. But the main foreign component to be used will be new Pratt Whitney Canada PW150 turboprops.  By using these reliable proven Western engines the Y-8F-600 stands a reasonable chance of success, provided it is offered at a low price. 


            Antonov has made a considerable effort to enlist PRC support for its advanced but troubled An-70 transport program.  Conceived during the later part of the Cold War, the An-70 was the designated successor to the An-12.  It featured a much larger cargo cabin and advanced turboprops with unique contra-rotating 14-blade props, with the ability to lift 35 tons of cargo.  But Russian government support for the program dwindled in the 1990s and Ukraine's failure to sell the transport to NATO and Germany has brought the program close to collapse.  PLA interest in the An-70 has waxed and waned.  In 2000 it appeared that Antonov was headed toward an agreement to co-produce the An-70[118] in the PRC, but the next Spring saw denials of such a sale.[119] However, in September 2003 Antonov Director Oleg Bogdanov was reported saying that the PRC was eager to join in the co-production of the An-70,[120] a prospect that would save the program if it came to pass.


            A more alarming prospect would be for the PLA to support the revival of production to allow PLA to purchase an improved version of the An-124 RUSLAN.[121]  This Antonov freighter is currently the second-largest aircraft flying and can carry more cargo than the U.S. Lockheed C-5A very large transport.  Antonov would like to produce a new version, the An-124-300, which would use more powerful Western turbofan engines and be able to carry an increased load of 150 tons. The PLA would ostensibly purchase this freighter to become more competitive in commercial outsized cargo transport.  But for the PLA even a small fleet of An-124-300s would allow rapid transport of DF-31 ICBMs or allow power projection of heavy armored forces into areas of contention like Taiwan or North Korea.


            All the while, Shaanxi is also developing newer and more capable transport aircraft in conjunction with Antonov.  At the 2002 Zhuhai show Shaanxi unveiled its Y-8-X concept transport.  This aircraft is a substantial redesign of the Y-8 that approaches and in some respects exceeds the performance of the latest C-130J transport.[122] It would be logical to assume that the PLA would favor a domestically designed transport over the An-70.  It is not yet clear that Shaanxi will proceed with co-producing the An-70, or indeed whether the PLA will invest in a revival of An-124 production.  At a minimum, however, Antonov has established a key position to help realize the PLA's medium and possibly very large transport aircraft ambitions. 











Foreign Contribution to AVIC-1's ARJ21 Regional Jet


ARJ21 Advanced Regional Jet

                                                                ARJ21-700      ARJ21-900

Wingspan (with winglets)                                 90 ft.         90 ft.

Length overall                                                 107.3 ft.      118.4 ft.

Max takeoff weight

  Standard version                                       82,819 lb.     91,106 lb.

  Extended-range                                         89,621 lb.     96,692 lb.

Max payload                                                19,657 lb      24,741 lb.

Max fuel                                                      22,849 lb.     22,849 lb.

Cruising speed                                            Mach 0.78      Mach 0.78

Cruise altitude                                              35,000 ft.     35,000 ft.


  Standard version                                      1,200 nm.      1,200 nm.

  Extended-range                                        2,000 nm.      1,800 nm.

Seating capacity

(two-class/one-class)                                     78/85          98/105
















            In 2002 AVIC-1 announced its new Advanced Regional Jet ARJ21 program which constituted the PRC's second attempt to build an indigenous airliner that could compete for the domestic and for foreign airline markets.  Unlike an earlier attempt to do so in the mid-1990s in cooperation with Airbus, it appears this attempt will succeed.  The ARJ21 is being designed at a time when PRC demand for such aircraft is expected to grow substantially and AVIC-1 is enlisting a long line of U.S. and European subcomponent suppliers to provide advanced technology parts:


General Electric (U.S.), CF34-10A turbofan engines

Boeing (U.S.):  Design consulting

Middle River Aircraft Systems (U.S.): engine nacelles

Hamilton Sunstrand (U.S.): Power systems, APU, lift surface actuators

Rockwell Collins (U.S.): Avionics

Honeywell and Parker Hannifin: Fly-by-wire flight control systems 

Parker Hannifin (U.S.):  Hydraulic systems

Liebherr Aerospace:  Landing gear

Antonov (Ukraine):  Wing design

Sagem (France):  Cabin systems


            AVIC-1 is supported by an initial $650 million development grant from the PRC government. It hopes to have the first ARJ21 flying in 2005 and expects to sell 350 in the PRC and 150 overseas.[123]  While the ARJ21 is now intended only to carry less about 100 or less passengers, it may displace sales of Boeing and Airbus airliners in that it is intended to service smaller cities and follow the same growth pattern for smaller regional airliners seen in the U.S. market.  And like the example set by Brazil's Embraer, it can be expected that after the ARJ21 regional jet is established, that AVIC-1 will start building larger airliners.  Seeing the competition posed by ARJ-21, Embraer has in the last two years moved quickly to set up a co-production facility in cooperation with AVIC-2's Harbin aircraft company.  The first EM-145 regional jet produced at Harbin flew in December 2003. 


            Again like the EM-145, the ARJ21 platform would be ideal for military missions such as airborne early warning or maritime patrol.  Like the Embraer regional jet, the ARJ21 could carry the ERIEYE-like phased array radar begin developed by the PLA or be outfitted with sea surveillance equipment. While there is currently no suggestion from AVIC-1 that it is indeed planning for military variants of the ARJ21, this possibility cannot be discounted.


Russia's Vympel R-27 (AA-10 ALAMO) AAM Family


Status:  R-27T1 and R-27R1 in service with PLAAF, longer range R-27RE likely sold to PLAAF, reported 1,860 ordered in 1995


Type              Weight        Warhead         Guidance                   Range


R-27R1         253kg               39kg          semi-active radar            65km

R-27T1         245kg               39kg          infrared                           60km

R-27RE        350kg               39kg          semi-active radar            80-130km

R-27EM       350kg               39kg          passive radar                   80-130km

R-27AE        350kg               39kg          active radar                     80-130km












            When it purchased its first 4th generation fighter in the Sukhoi Su-27, the PLAAF also purchased its first useful radar-guided medium-range air-to-air missile in the Vympel R-27. SIPRI reports that 1,860 were ordered in 1995, with deliveries from the Ukraine at about 100 a years. The PLAAF is believed to have purchased the semi-active radar guided version, the R-27R1, which requires the Su-27's radar to "paint" the target up to interception, which limits the aircraft's maneuverability during air combat.  However, this missile's respectable range makes it a potent weapon. Russian aerial combat doctrine suggests that firing the R-27R1 be followed by immediately firing an infrared guided R-27T1 in order to overwhelm the opposing pilot.[124]  The R-27 also is credited with having a better engine than the active guided Vympel R-77. To correct its deficiencies, Vympel has reportedly developed the R-27AE with an Agat active guided radar.  While this missile is marketed, it is not known whether it has been purchased by the PLA.  In addition, the R-27EM uses a Agat passive radar, which is designed specifically to intercept AWACS and other emitting electronic aircraft.  Again, it is not known whether the PLA has purchased this missile, though it would certainly have a requirement to do so.        


Russia's Vympel R-77E (AA-12 ADDER)  Air-to-Air Missile


Status:  200 reported delivered to PLAAF, tested on PLAAF Su-30MKK in mid-2002

Length:  3.6m Width:  200m Weight:  175kg; WARHEAD: 22.5kg

Propulsion:  Solid fuel rocket

Performance:  SPEED:  M3; RANGE: 50-80km, R-77M, 90km; MANEUVERABILITY:  12G

Guidance: Inertial, Command, and AGAT active guidance radar; Also IR guided version R-77TE (?)








            The PLA's acquisition of the Vympel R-77 active-guided AAM was expected after the PLAAF ordered the Su-30MKK. [125]  In mid-2002 U.S. Intelligence detected that the PLAAF had begun testing the R-77. [126]  According to Russian sources the PLAAF launched five R-77s from Su-30MKKs for these tests.[127] According to one report, the initial PLAAF order was for 100 R-77E missiles.[128] A more recent report notes that 200 R-77s have been delivered to the PLAAF.[129] While they require initial cueing from aircraft radar, active guided missile are able to use their own "active" radar to lock on to a target during the final portion of a flight.  This allows the launching aircraft to set up its next shot, maneuver defensively or egress the combat area. Taiwanese pilots have trained with the U.S. AIM-120 active-guided AAM in the U.S. and these missiles were finally delivered to the island in mid- 2003.


            Development of the R-77 dates back to 1982, with test flight beginning in 1984.  Production was not extensive by the time of the break-up of the Soviet Union, and further production was constrained by the fact that the factory was in the Ukraine.  This impediment ended when production shifted to Vympel in Russia in 1993.  The R-77 requires that the aircraft radar initially acquire the target and target location upgrades are transmitted to the missile in flight.  The last 15km of the flight is guided by the AGAT Bureau's 9B-1348 active seeker.[130]  Agat's upgraded 9B-1103M extends the active seeker's range to 25km.[131] Missile speed is limited to Mach 3 due to excessive nose-cone heating. The Russians are also dissatisfied with its range, which is a result of an inadequate engine which is unable to achieve a "lofted" missile trajectory that allows for greater range. Its range is reported between 50km to 80km,[132] but this could also be a factor of missile version.  For a period Vympel was marketing a 150km-range ramjet-powered R-77M-PD.  A ramjet powered version was reportedly flight tested in 1995.[133]


Russian Technology in the Louyang PL-12/SD-10 Air-to-Air Missile


Status:  Uses Russian guidance and data link technology, to arm versions of the J-8, J-10, J-11, and FC-1 fighters, first delivery to PLAAF in 2004

Length:  3.85m Width:  280mm Weight:  180kg

Propulsion:  Solid fuel rocket

Performance:  SPEED: M4; RANGE: 70-80km; MANEUVERABILITY: 38G

Guidance:  Reported to use Russian Agat active radar seeker and data link








            The PLA's longstanding ambition to produce a world-class medium range radar-guided air-to-air has been met with the help of the AGAT radar bureau in Belarus. Earlier attempts such as the PL-10, based on U.S. AIM-7 missiles captured in Vietnam, and the later PL-11, based on the Italian ASPIDE, were not successful. During the 1990s it was clear that the Louyang Electro Optical Company also had a program to develop an indigenous active-guided AAM to match the U.S. and Russian capability in this area.  At the 1996 Zhuhai show the Lyouyang Company revealed its AMR-1 active seeker for a medium-range AAM.  Both company brochures and promotional videos seen at Zhuhai that year showed a rack with several missile guidance radar with flat planar arrays.[134] According to one source, the AMR-1 forms the basis for the PL-12 medium-range AAM.[135] 


            In 2001 full size representation of a new medium-range AAM was revealed in conjunction with the mock-up of the Chengdu FC-1, and full size photos of the same missile appeared in early 2002. Initially known by its export designation SD-10,[136] in late 2003 it was learned the official designation is PL-12.[137] In mid 2002, Russian sources revealed its designation as Project 129 AAM, which also noted that it combines active radar seeker technology from the Russian Agat Bureau with a PRC missile motor capable of a longer range "lofted trajectory." [138]  With this combination, the SD-10 may exceed the performance of the R-77.[139]  Early reports noted it had a 80km range[140] but later Louyang brochure data put the range at 70km.[141]  Its advertised speed of Mach 4, however, does handily exceed the speed of the R-77. At the 2002 Zhuhai Airshow, however, Louyang officials denied that the SD-10 was based on Russian components.[142]  This does not discount that the SD-10/Project 129's active radar could be based on Agat technology.


            At any rate, it is clear that this program is in a stage of advanced testing--20 missiles that had been tested by November 2002.  According to an AVIC 1 official fully guided SD-10 tests will take place in early 2004 and an early production batch will be ready by mid-2004.[143]  Reportedly, it will first be used on new Shenyang J-8II fighters and later on Chengdu J-10s when they become operational.[144]  Pakistan is likely to be the earliest customer, the PL-12/SD-10 integration with the Chengdu FC-1/JF-17 fighter may not happen until 2006.[145] Advanced versions of this missile may also arm the PLAAF's next 5th generation fighter. Louyang officials note their interest in ramjet propulsion to give this class of missile longer range and they acknowledge their interest in developing a ship-launched versions of the SD-10. [146]  A ground launched version is reported to be in testing.[147]


            Having laid the groundwork for innovative cooperation over the Project 129 AAM, it is likely that Agat and Louyang, or other PRC companies, are cooperating on further AAM or SAM programs.  At the 2003 Paris Airshow Agat has unveiled a new active missile seeker with an unprecedented range of 70km.[148]  It is possible that this seeker could allow an AAM to achieve a range of 230-348km (125-188mi), allowing attacking aircraft to pose a new threat to AWACS aircraft.[149]  Given their prominence in both U.S., Japanese and Taiwanese air defense doctrine, it should be expected that the PLA would seek multiple weapons to defeat AWACS.


            Another possibility for advanced AAM cooperation could be offered by the Novator Bureau and its 300km range "Article 172."  Developed from a 1980s Soviet requirement and revealed in 1993, and after a long hiatus, Novator allowed a model to be displayed at the 2003 Dubai Airshow.  This program apparently is proceeding for certain export customers.[150]  



Vympel R-73 (AA-11 ARCHER) Helmet Sighted Air-to-Air Missile

Status: R-73 in service with PLAAF Su-27SK, J-11, Su-27UBK and Su-30MKK fighters, 3,720 reported ordered in 1995

Length: 2.9m  Width: 17cm  Weight: 105kg

Engine:  Solid fuel rocket

Performance:  SPEED: M 2.5   RANGE: 30km  MANEUVERABILITY:  60G

Guidance: MK-80 infrared seeker, 15km range; Cuing by Arsenel SHCH-3UM-1 Helmet Sight or OLS-27/30 IRST










            When the PLAAF obtained their first Su-27SK fighters in 1991, it also became the first air force in Asia to obtain a helmet sighted missile.  SIPRI reports that 3,720 were ordered in 1995. Though the U.S. Navy had developed a helmet sighted version of the AIM-9 SIDEWINDER late in the Vietnam War, it was not adopted.  Vympel's R-73 entered service in 1986.  Had it been used against U.S. fighters during the Cold War, there would have been a tragic shock: this missile alone might have given Soviet Bloc pilots primacy in the short-range aerial combat arena.  In a fighter "merge" the pilot with the helmet sighted missile usually can fire his missile first, almost always guaranteeing a first kill.  The key advantage is the "off boresight" lock-on capability of the missile.  A SIDEWINDER has about a 25 degree off boresight lock-on capability, or a 50 degree field of fire. The R-73 with a helmet sight has a 60 degree lock-on or a 120 degree field of fire. Without a helmet sighted missile the pilot must maneuver his whole aircraft, instead of merely turning his head, wasting life-saving seconds.  The superiority of the R-73 helmet sighted missile was proven in post-Cold War exercises between U.S. F-16s and ex-East German Air Force MiG-29 fighters.[151]  Because of the R-73 Taiwanese pilots are forced to keep their distance from PLAAF Sukhois when there is a potential for a non-combat meeting over the Taiwan Strait. [152]  In a parallel flying scenario the PLA pilot will always be able to get off the first shot.


            The R-73 is fast and highly maneuverable due to thrust-vectoring vanes over the engine exhaust.  In addition to the helmet sight, the R-73 is also designed to be cued by an infrared sighting and tracking (IRST) system used by Russian fighters.  The OLS-27 IRST has a range of 100km, which allows the fighter to search for targets without using his radar, which might give away his position.  Vympel is also developing an advanced dog fighting AAM called the K-30.  This missile is expected to have a better seeker with a 20km range.[153] 











Israeli Rafeal Python 3/Louyang PL-9 and Python 4 Short-Range AAMs



Status:  In service with PLAAF and PLANAF units, seen on J-7, J-8 and J-10 fighters

Length:  3.3m  Diameter: 160mm Weight:  120kg

Performance:   RANGE:  15km

Guidance:  Infrared, all aspect



Status:  Based on Python-3 but service status in the PLAAF is uncertain, upgraded PL-9C reported to arm J-8, J-10 fighters, may arm J-7G

Length:  2.99m  Diameter:  160mm Weight:  120kg

Performance:    RANGE:  5.5km;  PL-9C: 8km, 22km in head-on attack

Guidance:  Infrared, all aspect, helmet sighting; PL-9C: more sensitive seeker with anti-jamming, helmet sight



Status:  There are some indications of possible sale to the PLA

Length: 3m   Diameter:  160mm Weight:  105kg

Performance:  SPEED: M 2; RANGE:15km, possibly up to 40km

Guidance: Enhanced imaging infrared seeker with advanced Helmet Display sighting


New Louyang IIR AAM

Status:  In advanced development

Performance:  Unknown but will use thrust-vectored engine for advanced maneuverability

Guidance: New Imaging-Infrared (IIR) seeker; new Helmet Display sighting system


























            Israel's cooperation with the PLA in the area of short-range air-to-air missiles is reported to have started with a 1982 agreement[154] to co-produce the Rafeal PYTHON-3 AAM.  This marked the PLA's second major source of this kind of technology since acquiring early Russian AAM technology in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  For the PLAAF and PLANAF, the acquisition of the Rafael PYTHON-3, called the PL-8 in the PLA, marked a significant upgrade in capability.  Derived from the SHAFIR, which was based on U.S. AIM-9 SIDEWINDER AAM technology, the "third-generation" PYTHON-3 was a new missile which featured a wider engine that confers greater acceleration to meet the requirements of Israeli air combat doctrine.  It also has an infrared seeker capable of "all aspect" detection, meaning it can attack a target head-on, not requiring extensive aerial maneuvering to get a tail-launch position. It was rushed into service in time for the 1982 Israeli incursion into Lebanon.  The PYTHON-3 is reported to have downed 80 Syrian aircraft.[155] Today this missile still has a respectable performance and it is often seen arming PLAAF and PLANAF fighters, particularly Chengdu J-7 and Shenyang J-8II fighters.  The PLANAF J-8II which collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3 on April 1, 2001 was carrying two PYTHON-3 AAMs.[156] 


            By 1991 the Louyang Electro Optical Equipment Research Institute was marketing the PL-9, a co-produced version of the PYTHON-3.  The PL-9 retained the latter's engine, warhead configuration, fuse and guidance system, but had differently shaped control surfaces.  It also had a reported shorter range at just 5.5km.  But at the first 1996 Zhuhai Airshow Louyang displayed a helmet sight which it said was linked to the PL-9.  The helmet sight was clearly a copy of the Ukrainian Arsenel helmet sight used with the Vympel R-73.  But Louyang's stated ability to co-produce the helmet sight and link it to the Israeli-origin PL-9 was at the time a surprising indication of PLA capabilities.  With an off-boresight aiming capability conferred by the helmet sight, and the already impressive all-aspect performance of the PYTHON-3, the PL-9 allows an even faster launch sequence than the PYTHON-3 with potentially less requirements for combat maneuvering. Nevertheless, the PL-9 has not been seen arming PLAAF fighters and Louyang officials at the 1996 and 1998 Zhuhai shows indicated it had not been put into production for the PLA.  It is possible that a new PL-9C version revealed in 2002 may be in production for J-8 and J-10 fighters.[157]  The J-7G, the latest production version of this fighter, is said to be integrated with a helmet sight,[158] indicating it may also use the PL-9C. The PL-9C has a more sensitive infrared seeker with anti-jamming countermeasures, and has a slightly longer range. 


            A more ominous prospect would be for Israel to have sold the PLA its very capable "4th generation" Rafael PYTHON-4 AAM.  An AVIC-1 promotional video shown at the 2002 Zhuhai Airshow featured a brief clip in which an aircraft fired a missile that looked almost like a PYTHON-4.[159]  Israeli industry representatives at the show would not comment on this missile's apparent likeness to the PYTHON-4.[160]  A 1997 report noted that Israel had offered the PLA the PYTHON-4 to compete with Russia's Vympel to arm the J-10 fighter.[161] Whether the 2002 AVIC-1 video constitutes proof of such a sale cannot be determined from other available information, but it suggests this dangerous prospect. 


            If the PLA did have the PYTHON-4, then it would possess the most advanced short-range air-to-air missile in the world, save for the PYTHON-5 AAM revealed at the 2003 Paris Air Show. Israel designed the PYTHON-4 to enable its combat aircraft to exceed the close-in aerial combat capability of potential adversary Russian fighters armed with the Vympel R-73.[162]  As a consequence, the PYTHON-4 is literally able to kill any aerial target within its "kill zone." It can find, accelerate and maneuver to kill that target regardless of the position of the launching aircraft relative to the target.  It also has an advanced imaging infrared seeker, which stores multiple images of the target to overcome infrared countermeasures.  This seeker is mounted on a movable gimble which enables faster search and lock-on.


            With the PYTHON-4, Israel's Elbit Co. pioneered the use of a helmet display targeting system. The Elbit helmet display is far superior to the Arsenel helmet sight, in that flight status, navigation and target information can be projected onto the pilot's helmet visor.  Thus, in a race with other helmet-sighed missiles, the pilot with the helmet display has the advantage of immediate access to radar and other sensor information to cue his head and fire the missile first, even if weather obscures the target.  Elbit's helmet sight is also the basis for the U.S. Joint Helmet Mounted Cuing System,[163] which guides the AIM-9X, the first U.S. helmet-sighted missile that is just now entering U.S. Air Force and Navy service.  


            At the 2002 Zhuhai show Louyang officials offered some observations regarding their next generation short range AAM.  They noted that it would be helmet sighted, small, have a thrust-vectored engine, and use a new imaging infrared seeker now in development.[164]  Louyang officials have said they have "bench tested" an imaging-infrared seeker (IIR).[165]  Such seekers combine a computer library of target images to match against high resolution infrared images of the target, increasing immunity to flares or other decoys that would degrade a pure IR seeker. This missile could use technologies derived from Russian or Israeli AAMs, but South Africa may be a potential source for modern AAM technology.  The new AAM described by Louyang is also similar to Denel's state-of-the art A-DARTER AAM, which was marketed at the Zhuhai show.  It appears that Louyang's experience with foreign AAM technologies, combined with their own ingenuity, has enabled this company to begin to produce world-class short-range AAMs. 


Russia's Molniya Kh-29 (AS-14 KEDGE) Ground Attack Missile



Status: 2002 report notes 2,000 purchased by the PLA

Length:  3.87m

Weight:  Kh-29L, 657kg; Kh-29TD, 686kg  Warhead: Kh-29L, 317kg; Kh-29MP, 250kg

Performance:  RANGE: Kh-29L, 10km; Kh-29MP, 12km; Kh-29TD, 30km

Guidance: Laser, TV, Imaging-infrared








            In July 2002 the Washington Times reported from a U.S. government source that the PLA had purchased 2,000 Russian Kh-29 (AS-14 KEDGE) short-range ground attack missiles.[166]  This same report notes they were all to be delivered in 2002, which may indicate they came out of existing Russian inventory. As such it appears that this missile will be the primary ground-attack missile for the Su-30MKK.  Sukhoi promotional videos of the Su-30MKK show the aircraft firing this missile.  It is also possible that given the large number purchased, the PLA may consider using it on other aircraft like the JH-7A or the smaller Q-5 fighter bomber.  In both size and function the Kh-29 is the Russian analogue to the U.S. MAVERICK ground attack missile.  The Kh-29's range varies due to it weight and it comes in versions that are guided by laser designators, TV cameras and imaging-infrared systems. 












Russia's Zvezda-Strela Kh-31A,P (AS-17 KRYPTON) Anti-Radar/Anti-Ship Missile


Kh-31A, P

Status:  Reported 200 Kh-31P delivered and Kh-31A to equip Su-30MKK2; possible co-production as KR-1

Length:  4.7m

Weight:  Kh-31A: 610kg, Warhead: 94kg; Kh-31P: 600kg, Warhead: 87kg

Engine:  Ramjet, kerosene fuel

Performance:  SPEED: M 2.5; RANGE:  Kh-31A: 70km, Mod 2: 100km; Kh-31P: 110km, Mod 2: 200km

Guidance:  Kh-31A: active radar seeker, 20km range; Kh-31P: L-112E passive homing radar, D-F Bands












            Russia's Zvezda Bureau missiles have provided the PLA with a credible medium range stand-off attack capability for its Su-30 and JH-7A aircraft. In 1997 the Kh-31 was first reported to be part of a co-production deal in which it would produce as the KR-1.[167]  Despite the appearance of an Internet-source picture showing a newly-made Kh-31 in the PRC, the Raduga Bureau denies that there is a co-production deal for this missile.[168]  However, recent reports note that the Russian Avtomatiki Bureau has shipped to the PRC 200 of its L-112E passive seeker used by the Kh-31P, again raising the possibility of co-production.  However this could also simply indicate the delivery of 200 Kh-31P missiles.[169] Given the expanded number of aircraft that will be using these Zvezda missiles, delivery of more is to be expected.


            This missile will be purchased in two versions. The first version is the Kh-31P, which arms the Su-30MKK, and is perhaps the most capable anti-radar missile in PLAAF service. It is believed capable of attacking radar for the U.S. PATRIOT surface-to-air missile and AWACS radar.  Should the PLA have the 200km Mod 2 variant, it can threaten Taiwan's fixed and mobile radar sites beyond the reach of Taiwan's current air defense missiles.  The anti-ship variant Kh-31A, possibly the newer 100km range Mod 2 version, will arm Su-30MKK2s slated for the PLA Naval Air Force.  Inasmuch as a mockup of the JH-7A has been seen armed with the Kh-31, it could be either the anti-radar or anti-ship version. Both the Kh-31A and Kh-31P can be used by upgraded Su-27SK, Su-27UBK and J-11 fighters. 


Russia's Raduga Ground Attack Missiles


Kh-59ME  (AS-18 KAZOO)

Status:  In service with PLAAF Su-30MKK fighter bombers

Length:  5.7m Weight:  930kg; WARHEAD: 320kg

Engine: Dvigatel P95TM-300, 350kg thrust

Performance:  SPEED: subsonic; RANGE: 115km

Guidance:  TV command, via APK-9 datalink pod



Status:  Apparently developed for PLA market, may have been acquired by PLAAF

Length:  5.7m Weight:  930kg

Engine:  Saturn 36MT, 450kg thrust

Performance:  SPEED: subsonic; RANGE: 285km vs large target; 145km vs small target

Guidance:  Active radar guidance














It is very likely that the Raduga Kh-59ME (AS-18 KAZOO) has been sold to the PLA as part of the standard armament kit for the Su-30MKK. Most Russian illustrations of the Su-30MKK, as well as models of the same, show the aircraft armed with this precision land-attack missile.  It has a 115km range and is guided by a nose-mounted TV camera seeker, which relays its images via datalink to a Weapons Systems Officer. This missile, however, is limited to clear weather operations. At the 2001 Moscow Airshow Raduga revealed its Kh-59MK anti-ship missile.  Based on the Kh-59M, the Kh-59MK features a more powerful engine and a longer 285km (171mi) range.  The Kh-59MK also has an active guidance radar designed for anti-ship missions.[170]  The degree to which Raduga is linking the Kh-59MK to the Su-30MKK in its promotional literature is at least an indication that this missile is intended for the PLAAF.[171]  It is possible that the PLA may be funding its development.  At the 2002 Zhuhai show a Russian source indicated that the PLA may already have this missile. At the 2003 Moscow Airshow Raduga displayed a Kh-59MK with aerodynamic refinements which indicates the missile has undergone some testing.


Russian Region Bureau Guided Bombs and Possible Technology Transfer



Status:  Unknown version (s) sold to the PLAAF in 2002

Weight:  1,525kg

Warhead:  1100 to 1170kg of high explosives; deep penetration; or thermobaric

Guidance:  TV correlation homing, 4m CEP accuracy; semi-active laser, gyro stabilized-4-7m CEPaccuracy



Status:  Sold to PLAAF, most likely arms Su-30MKK

Weight:  500kg

Warhead:  380kg high explosive, concrete piercing; or 250kg thermobaric

Guidance: TV correlation homing, 4m CEP accuracy



Status:  Possible PLA funded program

Weight:  300kg

Warhead:  250kg, high-explosive fragmentation

Guidance: semi-active laser, feathering, 3-10m CEP accuracy




















            Along with the Su-30MKK it was to be expected that the PLA would also purchase a range of guided bombs that would exploit this aircraft's precision attack capabilities.  At the 2003 Moscow Airshow the Region Bureau revealed that it had sold its very large 1,525kg (3,335lbs) KAB-1500 series guided bomb to the PLA in 2002.  Although reports are not specific, the type believed to have been sold is the KAB-1500Kr,[172] which uses a "TV correlation homing" guidance system.[173]  Most likely using pre-loaded image-intelligence data of the target, the bomb's guidance system "locks on" to the target area while still on the aircraft, and then is automatically guided to the target.[174]  Such a system requires clear weather, but allows the attacking aircraft to initiate defensive maneuvers immediately after dropping the bomb, instead of "dwelling" over the target as it would for a laser guided bomb.  Other versions of  the KAB-1500 use laser guidance and it is possible these have been sold to the PLA. This bomb can carry high explosive, deep penetrating or thermobaric warheads.  The smaller 500kg (1,100lbs) KAB-500 has been observed on a PLAAF Su-30MKK.  It uses TV correlation homing and come in versions with runway penetrating or thermobaric warheads.  


            Also revealed for the first time at the 2003 Moscow show was Region's LGB-250, a 300kg (660lbs) laser-guided bomb developed with "company funds."  Robert Hewson, editor of Jane's Air Launched Weapon Systems reported, "Given that virtually all company-funded defence programmes in Russia are conducted for export customers, Jane's Defence Weekly believes that China is the most likely operator for the LGB-250."[175] While this is possible, it may also be the case that the PLA funded the technology development to boost its domestic laser-guided bomb making capability.  The PLA has been trying to develop its own laser-guided bombs but with unknown success. In early 2002, a model of the JH-7 appeared on Internet sources featuring a new type of laser-guided bomb.  It is possible this could be the LGB-250.  This bomb is designed by a ground-based designator, which means it is likely to be carried by a number of PLA attack aircraft, such as the Xian A-5.  The latest versions of the A-5 are reported to be able to use a new indigenous laser-guided bomb, called the LS-500J.[176] Upgrading with such weapon allows this obsolete but still numerous aircraft in the PLAAF and PLANAF to conduct modern precision attack missions.  


            In addition, Region also unveiled its new KAB-500S-E bomb, a 560kg bomb that uses satellite navigation guidance similar to the U.S. Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM).  A Region brochure says, "The bomb is equipped with the devices for GLONASS/GPS navigation."[177]  The beauty of using satellite navigation is that guidance is not affected at all by weather.  All that it requires is a precise location coordinate for the target.  In the future it can be expected that Region will apply its new satellite navigation systems to other bombs, like the KAB-1500 and that it will sell its new satellite guided bombs to the PLA. 






[1] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November 2002.

[2]Yekaterina Titova, "The Big Game, Sukhoy is Left," Profil, October 7, 2002, in FBIS CEP20021018000371.

[3] A brief review of the PLAAF's activities during the Summer of 1999 intimidation flights is in Kenneth W. Allen, "PLA Air Force Mobile Offensive Operations," in Martin Edmonds and Michael M. Tsai, eds., Taiwan's Security and Air Power, London: Routledge Curzon, 2004, p. 80.

[4] Vladimir Ilin, "Air Bases of Russia: Lipetsk-One of the Aviation Centers of Russia," Vestnik Vozdushnovo Flota, March 14, 1995, in FBIS-UMA-95-S.

[5] "Airborne 'boxing champion' strives for hegemony: Soviet -30MK resists F-15C," People's Liberation Army Daily,  June 25 2002; "F-15D vs Su-27UB" Modern Weapons, September 1996.

[6] Yefim Gordon and Alan Dawes, "Aggressive Training-Russian Style," Top Gun Combat, an Air Forces Monthly Special, Classic Aircraft Series No. 5, p. 69.

[7] Interview, Taipei, August 1999.

[8] Andrei Fomin, Su-27, Flanker Story, Moscow: RA Intervestnik, 2000, p. 109.

[9] Robert Hewson, "Chinese Su-27 upgrade funds Russian project," Jane's Defence Weekly, October 8, 2003, p. 5.

[10] Ibid.

[11] John Fricker, "Russian Sukhoi Upgrades Benefit from Export Programs," Overhaul and Maintenance, May 2003,  p.41.

[12] Such lackluster performance was demonstrated during aerial maneuvers of 1996, videos of which were viewed by the Author.

[13]   Flight International,

[14] Author observation, Moscow Airshows, 2001 and 2003.

[15] Hewson, op-cit.

[16] Kanwa News, March 10th 2001

[17] "China Expands Reach With Russian Destroyers," Jane's Defence Weekly, January 15, 1997, p. 5.

[18] For an excellent history and assessment of the Su-30MKK see, Thomas Andrews, "Sukhoi Su-27/30 Family," International Air Power Review, Spring 2003, pp. 51-56.

[19]Michal Fiszer and Jerzy Gruszczynski, "Eyes of the eastern eagles: fire-control systems for Russian tactical strike aircraft," Journal of Electronic Defense, February 1, 2003 p. 38.

[20] Taiwan Ministry of Defense briefing, December 2003.

[21] Interview, Moscow Airshow, August 2003.

[22] Interviews, Zhuhai Airshow, November 2002 and Moscow Airshow, August 2003.

[23] "They Will Equip Newest Russian Fighter with Artificial Intelligence Systems," Lenta RU, November 25, 2003.

[24] Interview, Moscow, August 2003.

[25] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November 2000.

[26] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November 2002.

[27] Interview, Moscow Airshow, August 2003.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November 2002.

[30] Douglas Barrie, "China Builds On Russian Adder To Develop Active Radar Missile," Aviation Week and Space Technology, June 3, 2002.

[31] Interview, Moscow Airshow, August 2003.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Interview, Moscow Airshow, August 2003.

[34] Bill Gertz, "Inside the Ring," The Washington Times, Dec. 7, 2001.

[35] Israeli sale of the Elta EL/M 2035 to support the J-8C first surfaced on Chinese websites like Dingsheng, but were credible enough to be reported elsewhere, see, Hui Tong, "J-8C Finback," Chinese Military Aviation, http://www.stormpages.com/jetfight/F-7_J-7_J-8.htm .

[36] "Iran and China negotiate FB-7/F-8IIM fighter deal," Flight International, December 4, 1996, p. 4; Robert Karniol, "China's $4.5b deal with Iran cools as funds fail," Jane's Defence Weekly, August 6, 1997, p. 14.

[37] Hui Tong, "J-8F Finback and J-8H Finback," op-cit.

[38] Picture provided by Robert Hewson.

[39] Huang Tung, " 'Xiaolong,' New Model of Chinese-Built Foreign Trade-Oriented Fighter Plane," Kuang Chiao Ching, October 16, 2003, pp. 72-73, in FBIS CPP20031023000106; in addition, recent pictures obtained from CCTV show a very detailed wind tunnel model of a F-16 in the PRC that would require very precise information to fabricate.

[40] "Mainland Hurrying Production of F-10 to Control Taiwan Strait," Hsiang Kang Shang Pao, December 29, 2003, p. B1, in FBIS

[41] Interview, Moscow Airshow, August 2003.

[42] Douglas Barrie, "Chinese tonic, The Chinese air force is picking up the pieces of Israel's Lavi fighter programme," Flight International,  November 9, 1994; Jim Mann, "U.S. Says Israel Gave Combat Jet Plans To China, "The Los Angeles Times, December 28, 1994, p. A1; Charles Bickers and Nick Cook, "Russia, Israel helping China build new fighter," Jane's Defence Weekly, November 25, 1995; Andy Chuter, "Israel/Russia Compete to Arm F-10 Fighter," Flight International, October 15, 1997, p. 9.

[43] "China got US fighterbomber secrets via Israel-paper," Reuters, December 7, 1995; for the best U.S. account of the Lavi saga, see Dov S. Zakheim, Flight of the Lavi, Washington, DC: Brassey's, 1996.  It was Zakheim's job for then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger to find a U.S.-built alternative to the expensive Lavi program. 

[44] Jane's All The World's Aircraft, 1987-1988, p. 144.

[45] Huang, op-cit.

[46] Interview, Moscow Airshow, August 2003. 

[47] List from Frost and Sullivan, "Israeli Technology Transfers to China and India: A Short Assessment," issued April 28, 2003, accessed via www.defense-aerospace.com  . 

[48] Mann, op-cit; Larry Wortzel, "U.S. Commits to Security of Its Allies," Taipei Times, March 15, 2001.

[49] John Fricker, "China's Chengdu J-10 unveiled with Internet photographs," Aerospace Daily, February 6, 2001, p. 198.

[50]Vladimir Karnozov, "NPO Saturn submits new fighter engine for tests; Fifth-generation powerplant to be put through its paces on Sukhoi Su-27M after ground runs, Flight International, December 2, 2003, p. 28

[51] Wortzel, op-cit.

[52] Ray Whitford, Fundamentals of Fighter Design, Shrewsbury: AirLife Publishing Ltd., 2000, p. 36.

[53]"China's fighter skips generation," Flight International, March 27, 2001, p. 22; Richard Fisher, "China's Chengdu J-10 Emerges," Air Forces Monthly, March 2002; Paul Jackson, editor-in-chief, "CAC J-10," Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003-2004, Surrey: Jane's Information Group, 2003, p. 77; "Airdata File, CAC J-10," Air International, March 2003, p. 66.

[54] Hui Tong, "J-10 Vanguard (?), Chinese Military Aviation, http://www.stormpages.com/jetfight/j-10_J-11_FC-1.htm .

[55] "Mainland Hurrying Production.," op-cit.

[56] Huang, op-cit.

[57] Image originates from a Chengdu brochure and was first reported by Yihong Chang, "China Promotes Stealthy J-10A," Jane's Defence Weekly, January 8, 2003.

[58] Howard Gethin, "MAPO Reveals First Glimpse of 1.42 MFI Multifunction Fighter," Flight International, January 6, 1999, p. 5; Nikolai Novichkov and Michael Dornheim, "MiG 1.42 Set For First Flight," Aviation Week and Space Technology, January 11, 1999, p. 436.

[59] Piotr Butowski, "Russian Fifth-Generation Fighter Will Be A Sukhoi," Air Fleet, April 2002, p. 16.

[60] For an excellent history and description of the MiG 1.44 program see Yefim Gordon, Sukhoi S-37 and Mikoyan MFI, Russian Fifth-Generation Technology Demonstrators, Hincley: Midland Publishing, 2001.

[61] Nikolai Novichkov, "American Stealth Is The Yesterday's News," Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie, April 7, 1999, p. 6.

[62] Huang, op-cit.

[63] Ibid.

[64] "China favours Russia over R-R," Flight International, July 7, 1993.

[65] "Cash problems put Chengdu FC-1 in holding pattern," Flight International, October 15, 1997.

[66] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November 2000.

[67] Huang, op-cit.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Michael A. Teverna and Douglas Barrie, "Dragon Trainer," Aviation Week and Space Technology, December 22, 2003, p. 41.

[70] Hui Tong, "J-7G Fishbed," Chinese Military Aviation, www.stormpages.com/jetfight/F-7_J-7_J-8.htm .

[71] "J-7G," Chengdu Aircraft Corporation web site, http://www.cac.com.cn/cpzs/J7G.asp .

[72] Jon Lake, "Xian JH-7," Air Forces Monthly, December 2000, p. 38.

[73] Richard Fisher, "Xian JH-7/FBC-1, The nine lives of the Flying Leopard," World Airpower Journal, Summer 1999, p. 23.

[74] Reporting on the possible PLA purchase of more Speys emerged in early 1999.  By late 2000 a deal was concluded and the engines apparently were delivered during the Summer of 2001.  Douglas Barrie and Jason Sherman, "China Seeks British Engine," Defense News, July 2-8, 2001, p. 1; "Chinese Speys Being Delivered," Air Forces Monthly, August, 2001, p. 4.

[75] Report by Li Heng, People's Daily Online, July 25, 2003.

[76] Barrie and Sherman, op-cit.

[77] Hui Tong, "JH-7A Flying Leopard II," Chinese Military Aviation, www.stormpages.com/jetfight/q-5_jh-7_h-6.htm

[78] Yihong Chang, "China promotes improved FBC-1M fighter," Jane's Defence Weekly, October 1, 2003.

[79] Douglas Barrie and Paul Lewis, "China considers Rafale/M88," Flight International, April 2-8, 1997, p. 6.

[80] Paul Jackson, "Dassault Rafale, France's Future Front Line Fighter," Air International, June, 1997, pp. ii -xvi.

[81] "Cultural revolution," p. 37.

[82] Piotr Butowski, "Su-32 could hit market by 2002," Jane's Defence Weekly, August 9, 2000, p. 12;   "Sukhoi Su32 to be on export market by 2002," Air International, October, 2000, p. 256.

[83]Michal Fiszer and Jerzy Gruszczynski, "Russia working on stealth plasma," Journal of Electronic Defense, June 1, 2002, p. 20.

[84] Douglas Barrie, "Lo and Behold," Aviation Week and Space Technology, August 11, 2003, p.51.

[85] This effort was revealed in Internet sources in 2001. 

[86] Nick Farina, "Missing the Link," Flight International, October 29, 2002, p. 45.

[87] Bernard Gray, "Britain to supply China with advanced navy radar," Financial Times, August 6, 1996, p. 1; "Racal-Thorn concludes Chinese surveillance-radar negotiations," Flight International, August 14, 1996.

[88] Paul Lewis, "China receives Su-27 batch and discusses third order," Flight International, October 23, 1996.

[89] "China converts Y-8s for AEW role," Flight International, March 14, 2000, p. 15.

[90] Paul Lewis, "GEC steps up Il-76 AEW efforts," Flight International, September 10, 1997.

[91] Andy Chuter, "GEC-Marconi's Chinese Argus Negotiations Reach Deadlock," Flight International, May 27, 1998.

[92] Farina, op-cit.

[93] Amnon Barzilay, "Israel: Russia to Sell ilyushin Il-76, Allow Israel-China Deal," Ha'aretz, March 18, 1997, p. A1, in FBIS-NES-97-077.

[94] Mohammed Ahmedullah, "PHALCON AEW Books Flight to India," Military Technology, October 2003, p. 84-85.

[95] "China seeks US reversal," Flight International, October 30, 2001, p. 21.

[96]Simon Saradzhyan, "Kasyanov Eyes $1Billion Arms Deal With China," The Moscow Times, November 1, 2000; Vladimir Radyuhin, "Russia Eyes $ 2-Billion Arms Deal With China," The Hindu, November 2, 2000; John Pomfret, "Russia Likely to Sell Radar to China; Planes Equipped With AWACS System Could Increase Threat to Taiwan, U.S. Fleet," The Washington Post, November 19, 2000, pg. A24.

[97] Ahmedullah, op-cit. 

[98] Farina, op-cit.

[99] Interview, Moscow Airshow, August 2003.

[100] Brochure, "A-50E," Moscow Scientific and Research Institute of Instrument Engineering (MNIIP), obtained at the 2001 Moscow Airshow.

[101] Dimitry Komissarov and Yefim Gordon, Ilyushin Il-76, Russia's Versatile Airlifter, Hinckley: Midland Publishing, 2001, p. 36.

[102] Interview, Moscow Airshow, August 2001.

[103] "Chinese Airborne Command Post," Air Forces Monthly, January 2001, p. 16.

[104] Charles R. Smith, "China's Illegal Spy Plane - Armed With Advanced Radar by U.S.," Newsmax.com, April 13, 2001     http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2001/4/12/181846.shtml

[105] Interview, Moscow Air Show, August 1997.

[106] The larger number is noted by Yefim Gordon, op-cit., p. 109.

[107] The COSCO Il-76 was viewed by the author on the COSCO webpage.

[108] Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozreniye No. 45, May 12, 2000, in Roy's Russian Aircraft Resource web page, www.royfc.com/news; "Il-76 Sale to China will Permit Assigning Russian VPK Enterprises Manufacturing Parts for this Airplane with Orders," Finmarket Agency, July 5, 2001, in Roys Russian Aircraft Resource, www.royfc.com/news/may/0701may03.html;  Komissarov and Gordon, op-cit, pg. 109.

[109] Timur Khikmatov, "Change of Citizenship: Voronezh for $130 Million," Izvestiya, September 4, 2003, in FBIS  CEP20030904000246.

[110]"Beijing Considers Purchasing Numerous Il-76S, Il-78S," Interfax,  January 7, 2004.

[111] Author observation.

[112]"China-Russia 'Mainstay' deal is revitalized," Jane's Defence Weekly, October 5, 2001.

[113] "Beijing Considers.," op-cit.

[114] Yefim Gordon and Dimitri Kommisarov, "The Red Starlifter," World Airpower Journal, Winter 1998, p. 123.

[115] "Delivery of Il-78MK Refueling Airplanes to India Will Begin in 2003," Interfax-AVN, October 24, 2001, in Roy's Russian Aviation Resource, www.royfc.com/news for October 24, 2001. 

[116] Wu Ming-chieh, "PRC: Russian Expert Reveals That the PRC Has Purchased Flying Tankers from Russia to Fulfil the Refueling Need of the Sukai Fighter and Increase the Radius of Combat in Large Scale" Tzu-Yu Shih-Pao, November 6, 2002, p.5, in FBIS  CPP20021108000202.

[117] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November 2000; Svitlana Bilohub, "Antonov Aeronautical Complex Has Far-Reaching Designs," The Ukrainian Times, January 16, 2001.

[118] "Ukraine, China Plan Joint Venture To Manufacture AN-70," Vozdushny Transport, No. 47, November 2000, p. 7.

[119] "China scraps plans to buy Russian-Ukrainian cargo planes," Agence France Press, April 2, 2001.

[120]Andrei Kirillov and Yevgeny Solovyov, "China wants broader cooperation with Ukraine aircraft-maker," ITAR-TASS, September 18, 2003.

[121] Ibid; Antonov and AVIC II extend ties, Flight International, September 23, 2003.

[122] Robert Hewson, "   ," Jane's Defence Weekly, December 11, 2002.

[123] William Dennis, "ARJ21 Looks West," Aviation Week and Space Technology, September 29, 2003, p. 19-20.

[124] David A. Fulghum and Douglas Barrie, "Su-30MK Beats F-15C 'Every Time,'" Aviation Week and Space Technology, May 27, 2002, p. 47.

[125] Yihong Zhang, "China's PLAAF set to receive 'Adder' missiles," Jane's Defence Weekly, May 17, 2000, p. 15.

[126] Bill Gertz, "China test-fires new air-to-air missile," The Washington Times, July 1, 2002, p. 1.

[127] "China Launched SD-10 Active Radar Homing AAM," Kanwa News, November 30, 2002.

[128] Robert Hewson, ed. "AA-12 ADDER (R-77)," Jane's Air Launched Weapon Systems, October 2001, p. 64.

[129] Private communication with author, December 2003. 

[130] Hewson, op-cit.

[131] Ibid.

[132] One source explains this to be the difference between intercepting fighter and bomber size targets, see, Yuri Babushkin, Russia's Arms, 2001-2002, Moscow: Military Parade, 2001, p. 422.

[133] Douglas Barrie, "Vympel launches R-77 ramjet from Su-27," Flight International, July 5, 1995.

[134] Author observation, Zhuhai Airshow, November 1996.

[135] Hui Tong, "PL-12?," Chinese Military Aviation, www.concentric.net/~Jetfight/missile.htm .

[136] Hui Tong, "SD-10?," Chinese Military Aviation, op-cit. 

[137] Robert Hewson, "China's new air-to-air missile operational this year," Jane's Defence Weekly, January 7, 2003.

[138] Douglas Barrie, "China Builds On Russian Adder To Develop Active Radar Missile," Aviation Week and Space Technology, June 3, 2002.

[139] Ibid.

[140] Robert Hewson, "China shows its newest air-to-air missiles," Jane's Missiles and Rockets, April 1, 2002.

[141] SD-10 Brochure viewed courtesy of Douglas Barrie. 

[142] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November 2002.

[143] Taverna, op-cit, and Hewson, "China's new air-to-air.," op-cit.

[144] Hewson, op-cit.

[145] Ibid.

[146] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November 2002.

[147] Kanwa News, September 10, 2003.

[148] Iosif Akopyan, "AGAT: New Generation of Active Radar Homing Heads," Military Parade, July 2003, pp. 40-41; Reuben F. Johnson, "New AGAT seeker in a class by itself," Aviationonline, June 16, 2003, http://www.ainonline.com/Publications/paris/paris_03/pd1agatpg85.html.

[149] Ibid.

[150] Douglas Barrie and Michael Taverna, "Long-Range Effort," Aviation Week and Space Technology, December 22, 2003, p. 35.

[151] "German MiG-29s With Advanced Russian Missiles Beat U.S. F-16s," Aviation Week and Space Technology, October 13, 1995.

[152] Interview, Taipei, August 1999.

[153] Douglas Barrie, "Russia Unveils Additional Adder Family Members," Aviation Week and Space Technology, November 18, 2002, p. 38.

[155] David Fulghum, "U.S. Confirms Israeli Missile Used by China," Aviation Week and Space Technology, April 30, 2001. 

[156] Ibid.

[157] Robert Hewson, "China shows its newest air-to-air missiles," Jane's Missiles and Rockets, April 1, 2002.

[158] "J-7G," Chengdu Aircraft Corporation web site, http://www.cac.com.cn/cpzs/J7G.asp .

[159] Viewed by the Author, Zhuhai Airshow, November 2002.

[160] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November 2002.

[161] "Israel/Russia compete to arm F-10 fighter," Flight International, October 15-21, 1997, p. 9.

[162] Carlo Kopp, "Fourth Generation AAMs - The Rafael Python 4," Australian Aviation, April, 1997,  http://www.sci.fi/~fta/python4.html .

[163] "Joint Helmet Mounted Cuing System," Boeing Co. website, http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/military/jhmcs/jhmcs_back.html . "ELBIT SYSTEMS AND KAISER AEROSPACE & ELECTRONICS SIGN AGREEMENT FOR DEVELOPMENT OF NEXT GENERATION HELMET-MOUNTED DISPLAY SYSTEM," http://www.elbit.co.il/news/arch/oct1998b.html .

[164] Interview, Zhuhai Airshow, November 2002.

[165] Douglas Barrie, "China Revs Up Its I2R Missile Efforts, Aviation Week and Space Technology,  November 11, 2002, p. 36.

[166] Bill Gertz, "China test-fires new air-to-air missile; Taiwan likely to get upgraded arms," The Washington Timew, July 1, 2002, p. A1.

[167] Douglas Barrie, "China and Russia Combine on KR-1," Flight International, December 10-16, 1997, p. 17.

[168] Interview, Moscow Airshow, August 2001.

[169] Robert Hewson,

[170] Brochure, "Kh-59MK," Raduga Bureau, obtained at the 2001 Moscow Airshow. 

[171] "China first customer for actively guided missile," Flight International, August 28, 2001, p. 21.

[172] Robert Hewson, "Russia's Region details bomb programmes," Jane's Defence Weekly, September 17, 2003.

[173] Russia's Arms, p. 435.

[174] Russia's Arms, p. 443.

[175] Hewson, op-cit.

[176] Hui Tong, "Q-5D," Chinese Military Aviation, http://www.stormpages.com/jetfight/q-5_jh-7_h-6.htm.

[177] Brochure obtained at the Moscow Airshow, August 2003. 

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