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Chinese Aviation Industry

Through its development of more than 50 years, the Chinese Aviation Industry has grown from repair to manufacture, and from license production to independent development and got advantage on the aspects of R&D, production, sale, education, etc.. It forms the industry system with independent manufacture capability and fully mating related products. It is one of the few industries enabled to product all series of aviation military products. It has become one of the well-based, high-tech and burgeoning industries in the national economy.

Aero production of the Chinese aviation industry includes military aircraft, civil aircraft, aero-engines, airborne equipment, tactical missiles and some other related products. Military aircraft include fighters, attack aircraft, bombers, strategic bomber, armament helicopters, transport, reconnaissance aircraft, trainers, UAV etc.. In terms of output, the fighters belong to the main variety of the Chinese aviation industry.

The Chinese aviation industry has set up a number of enterprises and research institutes, which are well-equipped and complete in various specialties. The aviation enterprises include industrial groups, aircraft, aero-engine, airborne equipment companies and factories, as well as forging and casting, implement and machinery factories.

There are six aeronautical universities or colleges, including Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, North Western Poly-technical University, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Shenyang Institute of Aeronautical Engineering, Nanchang Hangkong University and Zhengzhou Institute of Aeronautics, etc.. Besides, there are 3 institutions of higher education, secondary specialized schools and a large number of technical schools. They have trained a great number of qualified talents for the development of the Chinese aviation industry.

The Chinese government pays great attention to the development of aviation industry. Under the guidance of reform and opening up policies, the Chinese aviation industry is now strengthening its cooperation with the international aviation circle, for the aims of constantly raising its technical level and keeping its momentum of hi-tech development. The performances of its military aircraft are being improved, a number of commercial aircraft are under development, speed up the industrialization of helicopter and strengthen its market competitiveness, and the export of its aero products has been promoting.

The Chinese aviation industry passed its 35th anniversary and its achievement in the aircraft development has been acknowledged worldwide. During the first 35 years the rich experience in successes were obtained as well as the lessons in failures. Because real knowledge comes from practice, these experience and lessons will certainly serve as valuable references to the further development of the Chinese aviation industry.

The scientific aircraft development procedure must be stringently followed. Based on experience accumulated in the past 30 years and more the Chinese aviation industry has sumed up a complete development procedure in the area of military aircraft. According to the procedure the development process of the military aircraft is divided into the following five phases: the study of operational requirement and feasibility in technology and cost; the conceptual definition study; the preliminary and detailed designs and mockup review; the prototype production and design certification; and the trial-operation and production certification. These five phases can also be used as a reference to the development of commercial airplanes. None of these five phases can be bypassed or surpassed because they are the integral parts of the development procedure. Special emphasis should be given to the first and second phases, i.e. the study of operational requirement and the feasibility in technology and cost and the conceptual definition study because they are the important prerequisite and the starting point to the success of the later aircraft development.

When an aircraft development program is going to be launched a thorough study must first be made to its missions, potential opponents, operations, operational 'requirement as well as its alternative general configurations, engines and major airborne equipment. To make a technical decision, the tradeoffs between the requirement and the possibility, between the advanced technology and cost must be made. A thorough understanding of the present status and trend of the similar aircraft in the world and an investigation into the actual conditions in China are thus required. Based on the understanding and the investigation several different proposals should be made. After repeated comparisons and tradeoff studies a design concept of the new aircraft can be correctly defined.

Advanced R&D must be emphasized so that a proper technical base can be laid. Advanced R&D is the precursor and basis of the aircraft development. The development of new generation aircraft should not only inherit the proven technology but also incorporate some innovations. The innovations can be the breakthroughs and the applications of the achievement in basic research, or the ingenious combinations of the achievement in applied research, or the direct application of the advanced R& D achievement. In one word the innovations are related to advanced R& D in one way or another. If the advanced R& D has not been carried out the design activities can only be proceeded blindly and the development program will fall into the following two cases: the aircraft developed will not incorporate any innovations and it will only mark time on a low technical level; or the technology used at the beginning of the design is not low but the development cycle will be prolonged, the development activities may be frequently interrupted by the unsolved key technical problems and sometimes the designers have to initiate their designs from the beginning. In the latter case the aircraft will be out-of-date when it is developed. In order to prevent the happening of the aforementioned cases advanced R&D must be strengthened. Subjects of the advanced R&D should be properly determined according to the world aircraft development trend, the Chinese strategy and policy, state of the art and financial resources so that the limited manpower and material resources can be spent at the most necessary and the most important places.

Scientific experiment must be fully conducted. The correctness of the aircraft design concept needs to be finally checked by the production and operation practices, but the design concept itself must be determined on the basis of a full range of tests to avoid any possible major deficiencies occurred in the prototype production. During the prototype production another series of tests including the single equipment function test, individual system function test and the integrated function test have to be conducted" These tests should not only be fully carried out but also be conducted in simulated conditions which are as similar as the real conditions. To well carry out these tests the test methods and means must be gradually set up, improved and complemented so that they can meet the needs of the advanced aircraft development programs.

The system engineering management must be put into practice. The aircraft development is a system engineering which embodies the achievements of modern science and technology and involves numerous disciplines and complicated technologies. The quality of development activities administration and the technical management directly affects the course of the aircraft development. The implementation of the system engineering management with the four aircraft development programs, i.e. J-8 II , J-711I , JJ-7 and Z-8, since the 1980s has showed that it enables the overall management, the centralized leadership, unified planning and coordination, the continuance in administration and management from design through tests, prototype production and flight test and, therefore, ensures the smooth progress of the aircraft development.

In the past there were serious problemsm with the quality of Chinese military aircraft. Chinese aircraft manufacturers' quality control tended to be uneven. Entire Chinese aircraft types were recalled to their factories in 1975, and in the 1980s Chinese combat aircraft were reported to have serious maintenance problems. However, in the wake of joint ventures with the United States and Europe in the area of civilian aircraft (particularly the MD-80 and MD-90 at Shanghai Aircraft Industries Corp. (SAIC)) the general level of Chinese aircraft workmanship has apparently risen. Because Western commercial standards are more stringent than previous Chinese specifications, the overall level of Chinese quality control has improved. Chinese combat aircraft are now reported to have a much smoother surfaces than before, suggesting a flow of personnel and expertise from civilian to military production lines.

Driven forward by the great demand for subcontracting, parts of aircrafts, military aircrafts and regional aircraft, China's aircraft manufacturing and maintenance (AMM) industry has been growing rapidly in recent years. In 2007, the industry generated revenue of RMB91.13bn, up by 23.7% from 2005, while the profit was RMB6.21bn, 47.5%. And in the first five months of 2008, the revenue of the industry was RMB51.33bn, up by 35.2% from the same period of 2005, with a profit of RMB4.9bn, up by 89.4%.

But as a whole China's AMM industry still has a lot to learn in terms of R&D, and its aircraft manufacturing is far behind those in developed countries. To bring huge growth to its aircraft manufacturing, the Chinese government issued A Guideline for Promoting Civil Sectors of National Defense Industry and A Guideline on Non-state Capitals Entering National Defense Industry to encourage military manufacturers to accept civil capital in developing some military products for civil use, in addition to keeping investing heavily in the aeronautics and space industry. Moreover, China would start R&D and manufacturing of large aircraft in its 11th "Five-Year Plan" period. Against such a background, China's AMM industry would have to develop rapidly.

By 2007 China was the largest customer market in the world for medium, large and regional aircraft. Yet she had no production supply to purchase. She was paying a high price to a duopolistic market for her needs; while at the same time forgoing profits from sales to her own and other countries if she were in fact in a position to supply her own and their needs.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:37:48 ZULU