China Aeronautical Salon in Zhuhai 2016

report by: Thierry Letellier


China Aeronautical Salon in Zhuhai is now at its 11th edition and is one of the most important aeronautical events in Asia. Although named as ‘China Air show’ it is primarily a trade fair, where aerospace companies present their items for sale, although some flight display is arranged for the public, mostly with the show of aerobatic teams.  It’s China only international aerospace exhibition, held biennially in the southern city of Zhuhai, not far away from Hong Kong; this year offered the largest-ever display of military hardware and aircraft, with 11 exhibition halls, 430,000 square metres of indoor and outdoor viewing area and 151 aircraft from 700 exhibitors from 42 countries and regions.A new Chinese fighter is the renovated single-engine J-10 Chengdu Vigorous Dragon, which in version B is equipped with  vectorable thrust and houses an electronic scansion AESA radar, but was shown only static; was also present the J-10A version of the  aerobatic team August 1st, mounted on 6 specimens.

The Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 fighter was presented by two Pakistan Air force units,  awarded as authors of the more aggressive flight presentation. The Joint Fighter-17 (JF-17) Thunder (also named FC-1 Xiaolong ) multi-role fighter was jointly developed by Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China and is jointly manufactured by Pakistan and China. Earlier it was reported that Myanmar Air Force will seek to purchase 16 JF-17 Thunder multi-role plane. The JF-17 could be positioned as a viable replacement for Myanmar’s MiG-29, J-7M or Q-5 ground-attack aircraft. The Shaanxi KJ-500 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) platform based on the Shaanxi Y-9 turboprop, which is also now in service with the PLAAF. It has a radar dish fitted atop the fuselage, similar to the PLAAF’s KJ-2000 AEW aircraft based on the Il-76. Chinese state media has said the phased array radar is designed by the No. 38 Research Institute under the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC )

Another new plane is the advanced trainer FDA2000, based on the cell of the MiG-21. The JL-9 advanced trainer was developed by Guizhou Aircraft Industrial Corporation. It is also know as the FTC-2000 Mountain Eagle (ShanYing) in its export name. This aircraft is competing for the PLAAF’s next generation advanced trainer aircraft programme with another Chinese design, the L-15. The JL-9 made its maiden flight in 2003. The JL-9 was designed to be a successor to the earlier JJ-7 trainer and resembles many of its features. The JL-9 has upgraded avionics and engine. It is intended to train pilots to fly high-performance aircraft, such as advanced forth-generation fighters, the J-10 and Su-27.

Three significant Chinese unmanned aircraft appeared for the first time at Airshow Chin, Avic presented its new Cloud Shadow jet and a greatly expanded development of its Wing Loong propeller-driven series at the show, while China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC)  displayed the CH-5, a jet-propelled follow-on from its established CH-4. Despite being based on the Tu-16 Badger, the Xian H-6H, is a new airplane and is in production, with an enclosed radome and four hard points for ordnance or missiles. The type is the main strategic bomber platform for the PLAAF, and can also be equipped for the aerial refueling role.

The show also saw the debut of the Y-20 transport aircraft, that can carry a 65 ton load in airlifts to assist military activities. Pushed by the same Soloviev DK-30 engines as the IL-76; it appeared quite agile, performing nice flypasts. It is built by Xian and curiously before the start of the show registrations of the 2 displayed aircrafts were painted over, some observers quoting the fact that they are probably the only 2 flyable examples. A huge order from PLAAF is expected, with press releases stating the number in ‘five hundreds’.A completely new airplane was the four-engine Avic AG600 seaplane, was built at Avia general aviation Caiga’s plant at Zhuhai Jinwan Airport and is expected to have the first flight in the first quarter of 2017.

For most of the public however the biggest excitement came from the aerobatic teams: Red Arrows were present for the first time and China and caused huge excitement, outperforming the national team 1 August based on their J-10 fighters. From Russia came both the Strizy Mig 29 and Russian Kinghts display team with their Su 27. Globalairpower would like to express its thanks to the perfect organisation of Airshow China 2016.