China Seeking To Offload Surplus Military Aircraft

 - November 28, 2018, 10:38 AM
The Shenyang JH-7A can carry a variety of precision-guided weapons including anti-ahip and anti-radar missiles. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

China is intent on selling off a number of technologically advanced aircraft, including radar platforms and interdiction and attack aircraft that apparently have fallen short of People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) expectations after just a few years of operational service. After being decommissioned, the aircraft have been handed over to Poly Technologies, a company licensed by the government, for rework into exportable versions and subsequent release to would-be foreign clients.

During the 12th China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition, better known as Airshow China 2018, held earlier this month in Zhuhai, the company had a large outdoor exhibition to showcase its wares. Large-format banners and posters were devoted to the KJ-200, JH-7, A-5, J-7, and K-8, describing them as decommissioned equipment available to interested foreign countries after repair, upgrade, and rebuild.

While the Chengdu J-7 and Hongdu A-5 and K-8 have been in PLAAF service for many years and are considered obsolete, the KJ-200 and JH-7 represent modern and still highly capable aircraft. Most intriguing is the offer of the Shaanxi KJ-200 airborne early warning aircraft, which entered PLAAF service as recently as 2009. Based on the platform of the Shaanxi Y-8, a localized Antonov An-12 transport, the KJ-200 features a large active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar mounted above the fuselage in a manner resembling the Saab Erieye. According to Poly Technologies, the system can detect, identify, and track aerial and seagoing targets with a compensation for ground clutter, and provides situational awareness, command, and control functions.

It seems that a handful of KJ-200s have become redundant after the more advanced KJ-500, based on the evolved Y-9 platform, became operational in 2015. While similar in dimensions, the newer 65-tonne-gross weight aircraft is attributed to the next generation and differs in having a non-rotating circular dome with three AESA arrays in place of the KJ-200’s balanced beam antenna.

Poly Technologies is also promoting the Shenyang JH-7 interdiction aircraft that has had a production run of some 270 copies, most of which remain operable. Developed in the 1980s, the initial version gave ground for development of the far more advanced JH-7А, which became operational in 2004. Apart from being China’s first computer-aided design, the 28.5-tonne jet featured a glass cockpit and digital fly-by-wire flight control system. Most of the earlier airframes were upgraded to the JH-7A standard.

Poly Technologies describes the aircraft as a twin-engine, tandem-seat, supersonic fighter-bomber able to carry a bombload of up to 6.5 tonnes and capable of long-range strikes with precision-guided munitions. The type was briefly marketed for export as the FBC-1 Flying Leopard, but all production examples went to the PLAAF and PLANAF (Chinese naval aviation). Now, with Shenyang having mastered production of the Sukhoi Su-30 twin-seat multirole fighter as the J-16, the JH-7A is being phased out and thus has become available for export.

Unlike the JH-7, the Hongdu Q-5 low-level attack aircraft was delivered new not only to the PLAAF (from 1970) but also to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan, Myanmar, and North Korea, with the export designation A-5. Last year, the type was withdrawn from Chinese service but remains active with the last three of the overseas customers mentioned. These and others may be interested in acquiring the A-5L, the most advanced version with the ability to use laser-guided bombs.