China Faces Hurdles in Procuring Fighters

Andrei Chang is editor-in-chief of Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, registered in Toronto, Canada.

Hong Kong, China — Some Western media have reported that China is negotiating with Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi Corporation for the procurement of 14 Su-33 ship-borne fighters, claiming that the contract on the deal will be signed soon.

However, according to Boris D. Bregman, first deputy general director of Sukhoi, the talks with China are still only at the consultation stage. While confirming that contacts were ongoing, he said no official negotiations had been initiated so far.

The information that China intended to import 14 Su-33 fighters came from the Russian military industry delegation attending the Zhuhai Air Show in 2006. According to members of the delegation, China had indicated it would eventually require about 50 Su-33s to arm several aircraft carrier battle groups.

China had initially requested only two fighters, then raised its request to 14, to be procured in two groups of seven, a Russian military industry source said. However, given its past record of copying Russian technology, suspicions were high that the Chinese intended to produce their own version of the fighter plane, using the Su-33 as a model.

The Russian source said that producing only seven aircraft in one batch was not feasible, as production of the Su-33 had already been suspended and the cost of reconstructing the production facilities was too high for such a small order.

However, Bregman told the author that his company could produce an upgraded variant of the Su-33 for export, according to the purchaser’s requirements, if the deal was right.

Some reports have suggested that a version of the aircraft specifically designed for China – referred to as the Su-33K – could be built to the standard of the Su-30MK2, which has upgraded electronics that support anti-ship missiles, or even fitted with Irbis or Bars phased-array radar systems. The former is currently installed on Su-35 fighters.

However, these modifications seem unlikely. The Irbis has a maximum power output of 20 kilowatts, therefore the Su-33’s power supply would be far from enough to support it.

As for the Bars passive phased-array radar, it is mainly employed on the Su-30MKM/MKI fighters currently in use by the Malaysian air force and the Indian air force. The Russian Defense Ministry has not yet officially approved the export of this type of radar system to China.

Given that China and Russia have not yet been able to reach agreement on the procurement of the Su-33 fighters, with negotiations on the deal still only in the initial stages, China will place its priorities elsewhere in 2009.

The PLA Navy will continue its work on constructing an aircraft carrier; at the same time it will consider its options with regard to the selection of ship-borne fighter aircraft. Since the aircraft carrier construction is likely to take at least another five to six years, it is not impossible that China may develop a ship-borne variant of its own J-10A and J-11BH fighters during this period.

The possibility of Sukhoi eventually restarting the Su-33 production line does exist, however. This is mainly because the Russian Navy is about to resume its own “Grand Aircraft Carrier Program.”

Aviation weapons observers based in Moscow say that a more realistic purchase order of Su-33 fighters would be 24 or more in order to make the start-up of the production line cost effective. Therefore, China may either have to increase its order or find another solution to the problem of procuring ship-borne fighter aircraft. (Upiasia)

Indian Air Force Issues Request For Proposals for Advanced Jet Trainers; BAE Hawks Dumped

March 21, 2009, New Delhi -- Upset over problems relating to spares supply for British 'Hawks' Advanced Jet Trainers (AJTs), India has shelved plans to place follow-on orders for the aircraft and instead floated new tenders to supplement its trainer fleet.

Indian Air Force (IAF) sources said here today that the new tenders -- Request for Proposals (RFP) in Defence parlance -- were issued about a month ago to six global aircraft manufacturers.

Surprisingly, United Kingdom-based Hawks manufacturer BAE Systems finds a place among the six companies which had received the fresh tenders. But it was being approached for an upgraded version of the AJTs, sources said.

Others trainers that the IAF has shown interest in and sent the tender papers to were Italy's Alenia for the M-346, Korean T-50s, the Chez L-159, Russian YAK-130 and MiG AT Trainer, sources said.

After a procurement process that lasted nearly 20 years, India finally entered a contract for the delivery of 66 Hawks trainers with BAE in 2004. The contract had an in-built provision for a follow-on order for 40 more aircraft.

But the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) had been finding it difficult to maintain the production lines for the aircraft at its facility due to considerable delays in spares supplies, sources said.

The move of the IAF to go in for a new brand of trainer aircraft came as a surprise, as it had originally planned to have a single type of trainers in the fleet to train future fighter pilots. (India-Defence)

Hellenic Air Force Celebrate Inauguration of Newest Advanced F-16 Fighter

March 19, 2009, FORT WORTH, Texas -- Ceremonies were held today at Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) in Fort Worth, Texas, to commemorate the F-16 Peace Xenia IV program for Greece. The ceremony marks an important production milestone, demonstrating that the program is on schedule and on budget. This F-16 acquisition is the fourth for the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) and the nation of Greece.

Lt. Gen. Ioannis Giagkos, chief of the Hellenic Air Force General Staff, accepted the first Peace Xenia IV F-16 Block 52 advanced aircraft on behalf of his nation and expressed satisfaction with its timely delivery. "I am grateful to everyone who contributed to the design and construction of this ultra-modern weapon system. With these new aircraft, the defense and deterrent force of the Hellenic Air Force will be significantly enhanced," he said.

U.S. officials attending the ceremony included Bruce Lemkin, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for International Affairs. Hosting the ceremony were Ralph D. Heath, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin and president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics; Dennys Plessas, vice president of business development in Greece; and John Larson, vice president of F-16 Programs.

"Lockheed Martin is pleased that through this government-to-government agreement, we are able to offer for the first time, a fully integrated and comprehensive weapon system, including a self-protection system, weapons and other subsystems which make this advanced version of the F-16 particularly effective for the operational needs of the Hellenic Air Force," said Plessas. "The recent completion of the infrastructure facilities as a special project in conjunction with this aircraft buy at Araxos Air Base, 116 Combat Wing guarantees the immediate use of this weapon system by the Hellenic Air Force."

"The F-16 we see before us today is a symbol of our 66-year friendship with the Hellenic Air Force, providing a path for the future to the next generation in aircraft with the F-35, as we continue to deliver on our promises between Lockheed Martin and the country of Greece," said Larson.

The Peace Xenia IV purchase program raises the total fighters ordered by the HAF to 170. The aircraft rolled out today is the first of 30 Block 52 Advanced F-16s being produced in the newest lot. The HAF received the F-16 Block 30 version starting in 1988, the Block 50 version starting in 1997 and the Block 52+ version in 2003. Greece has been a Lockheed Martin customer since 1943, when it acquired its first squadron of Martin A-30 Baltimore Mk III, IV and Vs.

The Peace Xenia IV program includes 20 F-16Cs and 10 F-16Ds, all powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 engine. This first aircraft - a single-seat F-16C model - was accepted by the U.S. government (as agent for Greece in the Foreign Military Sales process) in January 2009, one month ahead of schedule. The U.S. government also accepted the first two-seat F-16D version in January. The first four aircraft will be ferried to Greece in May with the remainder following in 2009 and 2010. (Defpro)

Russian Navy to commission first Lada class diesel sub in 2010

March 20, 2009, Moscow -- The first Lada class diesel-electric submarine featuring extended noise reduction will be commissioned with the Russian Navy in 2010, deputy head of the Navy General Staff said on Friday.

The St. Petersburg is a Project 677 diesel submarine developed by the Rubin design bureau, whose export version is known as the Amur 1650. It features an advanced anti-sonar coating for its hull, an extended cruising range, and advanced anti-ship and anti-submarine weaponry, including Club-S cruise missile systems.

"The sub is undergoing sea trials to test new propulsion, electronics and weapons systems," Vice Admiral Oleg Burtsev said.

The construction of the sub began in 1997 at the St. Petersburg's Admiralty Shipyards. Two other submarines of the same class - the Kronshtadt and the Sevastopol - are being built by the company.

The Lada class vessels will gradually replace the Kilo class submarines, which are sometimes called "Black Holes" for their uncanny ability to "disappear," and are thought to be one of the quietest diesel-electric submarine classes in the world.

The Russian Navy is planning to commission a total of eight Lada class submarines in the future, the admiral said. (RIA Novosti)

Navy's Frigate Induction Plan Hit by US Ban on Engine Supply

March 16, 2009, New Delhi -- India's plan to induct newly built Shivalik stealth frigate in the Navy this year may be hit with the US Administration halting the warship's gas turbine engines supplier from operationalising the contract.

Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) built the warship fitted with two LM 2500 gas turbine engines and was readying it for sea trials in a couple of months when the bad news from General Electric (GE) came as a shocker for the Indian Public Sector Undertaking shipyard, Navy sources said here on Monday.

Interestingly, LM 2500 is the engine Navy chose for its Indigenous Aircraft Carrier currently under construction in Cochin Shipyard and for which the keel laying was done by Defence Minister A K Antony in the last week of February this year.

The GE communication, sources said, indicated that it could take up to three months for the matter to be resolved with the new Obama dispensation, which was currently reviewing its military relations with several countries.

Not just with India, GE was instructed to halt work with even US allies such as United Kingdom and Australia, sources said.

However, the Navy's top brass, putting up a brave face, claimed the US ban would not impact its Shivalik project, codenamed P-17, under which a series of three guided missile frigates are to be built, with the other two being named Sahayadri and Satpura.(

Russia’s Voronezh Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarine at Zvezdochka Shipyards for Planned Modernization

The Russian Project 949A (Antey) nuclear ballistic missile submarine Voronezh of the Northern Fleet has reached the water area of the Zvezdochka shipyards, where it will undergo modernization, the press service of Zvezdochka has announced.

The ship, which was built here in Severodvinsk at the Sevmash Shipbuilding Factory in 1988, will be examined to determine the amount of work needed for its modernization. As expected, thorough modernization of Antey-, Granit-, and Bars-type warships will begin at Zvezdochka in 2010. Therefore, what is being done at this stage is preparing the shipyards for such future work.

In addition to the Zvezdochka, the strategic missile sub Novomoskovsk of the Northern Fleet will likewise undergo repairs and modernization at Zvezdochka. Construction of the Novomoskovsk immediately began after that of the strategic missile submarine Karelia, which was subsequently moved to Zvezdochka on November 22, 2008.

Work on the warship should be completed by 2010, according to plans. It will be the sixth Delphin-class Project 667DRM submarine to undergo modernization at Zvezdochka. The others are the Verkhoturye, Ekaterinburg, Tula, and Bryansk. The service life of these ships was extended by 10 years as a result of such modernization. The strategic missile submarine Karelia should return to combat duty in the Northern Fleet by the end of this year, according to plans.

The Novomoskovsk was also built at the Sevmash Shipbuilding Factory, and it joined the combat group of the Russian Navy in 1990. These submarines can still serve for a long time in the Russian Navy as the cornerstone of Russia’s naval nuclear shield, according to experts.

On December 27, 2000, the crew of the Novomoskovsk, under the command of Captain First Class Alexander Moiseev, successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from the Barents Sea. The launch was performed from under water and was meant to assess the combat readiness of Russia’s Nuclear Strategic Forces. The submarine in 1991 performed an underwater launch of all of its six ballistic missiles simultaneously, a first in the world.

And in March 2004, the crew of the Novomoskovsk, under the command of Captain First Class Sergei Rachuk (subsequently awarded the title of Hero of Russia), performed a successful experimental underwater launch of a ballistic missile form the Barents Sea.
Source: Krasnaya Zvezda, author: Sergei Vasiliev, photo by Boris Serdiuk, Translation:

Taiwan Gets 12 Orion ASW Aircraft

March 15, 2009, Taipei -– The U.S released 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine warfare (ASW) patrol aircraft March 13 to Taiwan when the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced a $665 million firm-fixed-price contract award to Lockheed Martin, Maritime Systems and Sensors Tactical Systems, under the Foreign Military Sales program.

The award includes the procurement of phased depot maintenance, structural service life extension, and avionics modification on 12 P-3 aircraft.

Work will be performed in the U.S. and be completed in August 2015. The Maryland-based U.S. Naval Air Systems Command was the contracting activity.

The P-3 award follows the DSCA announcement in October for a $6.4 billion arms package that enraged China. Beijing retaliated by discontinuing military-to-military exchanges with the U.S., now restarted with the Obama administration.

The October package included an E-2 Hawkeye aircraft upgrade, 30 AH-64D Block III Apache Longbow attack helicopters, 330 Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missiles, 32 UGM-84L sub-launched Harpoon Block II missiles, spare parts for F-5E/F, C-130H, F-16A/B and the Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF), and 182 Javelin guided missile anti-tank rounds. Missing from the list was a submarine design study and 60 Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters.

The P-3s and the October arms package release were part of the Bush administration's April 2001 arms deal to Taiwan that included eight submarines, now on hold. The Bush offer became a nightmare when members of Taiwan's legislature refused to approve budget requests and turned the deal into a political football.

The issue was resolved in early 2008 when the Beijing-friendly Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) unseated the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in presidential and legislative elections.

However, the long-delayed arms deal resulted in even more delays for other items, some going back a decade. Deferred procurements, or wish-list items, include four Aegis-equipped destroyers, M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks, Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), AGM-88 HARM (High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile) anti-radiation missiles, and 66 F-16C/D Block 50/52 fighter aircraft. Taiwan has also been discussing the idea of procuring F-35 fighters when and if they become available.

Taiwan's de facto embassy in Washington, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), is reportedly preparing to renew pressure on releasing F-16s.

Taiwan's fighter inventory includes 146 F-16A/B Block 20, 128 Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDF), 56 Mirage 2000-5s and roughly 60 aging F-5s. There is a pressing need to replace the F-5s to maintain its current air power capability.

The U.S. is the last country selling arms to Taiwan. Due to Chinese pressure, Europe and Israel discontinued arms sales to Taiwan in the 1980s and 1990s, and a French sale of Mirage fighter aircraft and Lafayette frigates in the 1990s resulted in a disastrous corruption scandal that ended all future arms from Paris.

In the past 10 years, Taiwan's indigenous arms industry has wilted in favor of reliable and tested U.S. arms. The result is a narrow non-competitive choice for arms from the U.S. that could now face an end as Chinese pressure on Washington grows.

Questions remain regarding the direction the new Obama administration policy will take on Taiwan. Economic and diplomatic pressure from Beijing will no doubt continue to influence Washington. A U.S. government source said China successfully pressured Washington to freeze arms sales to Taiwan in 2007 and 2008. It was not until intense lobbying by pro-Taiwan advocates in Washington that the Bush administration released the October arms deal.

With China holding $1.9 trillion in foreign exchange reserves and Washington asking Beijing to buy even more U.S. debt, there are concerns Obama's pending Taiwan policy will favor no arms in the future. (defensenews)

Russia Grounds MiG 29 Fighter Jets Due to Corrosion Damage

March 13, 2009 -- Many of the Russian MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter planes grounded after last December's crash have shown signs of metal corrosion, a military official said on Friday.

Since the MiG-29 crash in East Siberia last December, in which the pilot died, a Defense Ministry commission has inspected around 200 aircraft, clearing more than 100 for further flights, but finding about 90 to be defective.

Lt. Gen. Sergei Bainetov, head of flight security at the Russian Air Force, said that even new aircraft which had clocked no more than 150 flight hours showed signs of metal corrosion in their tail sections.

Experts are looking into the possible causes of the corrosion.

The December crash was the second in East Siberia involving a MiG-29 fighter in less than two months. In mid-October, a MiG-29 crashed 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Domna airfield in the Chita Region during a training flight. The pilot ejected safely.

Last year, two Russian Air Force MiG-29 fighters were involved in a mid-air collision over the Rostov Region. Both pilots ejected safely.(india-defence)

Indonesia Airforce Operates SU-27SK

In 2003 the government of Indonesia ordered two Su-27SK (serial TS2701 and TS2702) single-seat and two Su-30MK (serial TS3001 and TS3002) multi-purpose twin-seat aircraft to replace the ageing and gounded fleet of 20 A-4/TA-4 Skyhawks of the Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Udara (TNI-AU - Indonesian Air Force). The order was part of a medium term plan to establish four new fighter squadrons before 2010, however these plans have been scaled down.

The Indonesian Su-30MK twin-seat aircraft were first reported to be designated Su-30KI, confusingly this designation had already been used for a new single-seat version specially developed for Indonesia. Indonesia had already signed a contract for 24 of these single-seat Su-30KI back in September 1997. However the contract was cancelled in 1998 as a result of the Asian economic crisis.

Indonesia's Su-30MKs are KnAAPO built examples similar to China's Su-30MKK. The Indonesian Su-30MK are sometimes also referred to as Su-30MKI or Su-30MK(I). The I clearly standing for Indonesia, and not referring to India's Su-30MKI version built by Irkut.

In June 2006, it was announced that Indonesia planned to procure six additional Flankers from Russia. It was also made public that the four aircraft procured in 2003had been inactive awaiting upgrade of their communication systems, which were incompatible with the Indonesian systems in use, and that no weapons were bought.

On 21 August 2007, on the opening day of MAKS 2007, Indonesia signed an agreement with Rosoboronexport for the purchase of three Su-27SKM upgraded multi-role single-seat export variants and three Su-30MK2 two-seat multirole derivatives, similar to those supplied to China, Vietnam and Venezuela. On the same day, Sukhoi also revealed it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesia on the delivery of the six fighters. The value of the contract was reported to be USD 300 million. More than a year later, the order was formalised in November 2008, when Indonesia had finally secured sufficient financing to cover the deal.

Two new Su-30MK2s arrived on board an An-124 on December 26, 2008, at Saltan Hassanuddin air base, Makassar. The aircraft, with serials TS3003 and TS3004, were first flown from Saltan Hassanuddin on January 6, 2009, by a Russian pilot to test all on-board systems. The third and final Su-30MK2 (serial TS3005) also arrived by An-124 at the base on January 17, 2009. Following re-assembly and test flights, TS3005 was delivered on January 25, 2009. All three Su-30MK2s were subsequently formally handed over to the TNI-AU on February 2, 2009.

The three new Su-30MK2 two-seaters join the two Su-27SK single-seaters and two Su-30MK two-seaters operated by the TNI-AU's Skadron Udara 11 at Saltan Hassanuddin air base. The three Su-27SKM single-seaters (likely to be serialled TS2703 thru TS2705) on order are expected to be delivered in stages later in 2009 and 2010. (

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