Report by: Rohani Tanasal and Thierry Letellier
The Dubai Air Show is one of the world’s largest and most successful trade shows, with 1,103 exhibitors, 66,346 trade visitors, and $37.2 billion in orders logged in 2015. This year in 2017, those numbers are expected to grow, with over 1,200 exhibitors and 72,500 trade visitors . Government, Distinguished Visitors and executives from many countries representing Military and Industry sectors went for signature series and roundtables at the AIA Operations Center.
After a 14-year ;Sukhoi has returned to the Dubai Airshow with a demonstration of one of its ‘Flanker,’ family of fighter jets. Despite the extraordinary gathering of fighter types at this year’s event including Chinese Chengdu J-10s, the French Dassault Rafale and the U.S. F-22 Raptor. Test pilot Sergey Bogdan’s flying display of so-called super-maneuverability in the Su-35 is one of this year’s most eye-catching and eagerly anticipated. Bogdan, who has 5,800 flight hours under his belt, is Sukhoi’s chief test pilot. Kicking off with a short-rolling take-off, achieving speeds of 90 kt. (170 km/h.) in 2-3 seconds, that he says, “demonstrates the high thrust” of the two Saturn AL-41 engines, as well as the ability for the aircraft to operate from short or damaged runways. Once in front of the crowd, Bogdan performs a “high-velocity turn,” which he says exhibits the Su-35’s ability to “rapidly change direction and pursue a target.” A “tilted loop” is flown at angles of attack up to 70 deg, and the speed can drop down to around 35 kt. (70 km/h) while the U-turn maneuver demonstrates the high controllability of the aircraft under what Bogdan “abnormal conditions of flight,” or at least abnormal compared to other fixed-wing aircraft. The ability to fly at very high angles of attack is thanks to the aircraft’s three-dimensional thrust-vectoring system which is linked to the aircraft’s fly-by-wire control system. “The thrust-vectoring system is always on,” says Bogdan, “the aircraft’s fly-by-wire flight control system decides what to do with the nozzles and the control surfaces,” in how it reacts to the pilot’s inputs, he said. Pilots have the option of switching to a supermaneuvrability mode which switches off the angle-of-attack limits.
Among the highlights of the flying display at the Dubai Airshow this year is a first chance for western audiences to see the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s August 1st aerobatic team. Named after the date of the founding of the PLAAF, the team is equipped with Chengdu J-10 fighters, and their appearance at the Airshow marks their first display outside China since 2015, when they flew at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace event in Malaysia In 2014, the PLAAF announced that four members of the August 1st team were women. The first display conducted with female pilots on board was given during the Zuhai airshow that year, though, at least initially, the women were flown in the rear seat of the J-10. The force began allowing women to pilot fast jets in 2005.
A Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) C-2 airlifter is appearing here at the Dubai Airshow during a deployment termed a flight training exercise but obviously intended also to market the type. During deployment to Dubai the C-2 will also visit Djibouti, where the Japanese armed services, the Self-Defense Forces, are building up a capacity for regional disaster response. The aircraft can appear at Dubai only because Japan ended a decades-old ban on military exports in 2014, though it still will not sell to countries that violate international treaties or U.N. resolutions or those engaged in conflict. The C-2 and the related KHI P-1 maritime patroller are perhaps the two products for which Japan has the greatest hopes in the international market. The Japanese air force began receiving C-2s in June 2016 after a protracted development program; 30 are required for airlift and one, a converted prototype, for electromagnetic intelligence. The twin-engine aircraft, comparable to the Airbus A400M Atlas in size, has a gross weight of 120 metric tons (265,000 lb.). It is powered by the General Electric CF6-80C.
The Gripen has not been seen at the Dubai Airshow since 2005, but its presence this year does not mean the aircraft is being actively competed for fighter requirements in the region. The appearance comes towards the end of an important year in the Gripen program, with the highlight being the first flight, in June, of the Gripen E. The next-generation model, which is due to begin deliveries to its Swedish and Brazilian customers in 2019. As well as flight-testing the hardware, Saab has been focusing on development and testing of the Gripen E software.
Lockheed Martin has been an early beneficiary of a UAE spending spree on the first day of the Dubai Airshow. The company and the UAE Armed Forces inked a $1.65 billion support upgrade contract for the UAE’s Block 60 F-16 Desert Falcon fighter jets. Maj. Gen, Adbullah Al-Hashimi, executive director of the military committee at the Dubai Airshow said the upgrade would deal with obsolescence issues in the Block 60 aircraft which were ordered by the UAE in 2000. The UAE’s F-16s have been described as some of the most advanced F-16s operating anywhere in the world and were the first to be equipped with an active electronically-scanned array radar and conformal fuel tanks. The aircraft have been heavily used by the UAE supporting operations over Libya in 2011 and more recently in the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen.
Chinese gains could make it difficult for the U.S. to break back into Middle East UAV market.Reluctance on the part of the U.S. to deliver armed unmanned air systems (UAS) to some of its key allies in the Middle East has resulted in a significant win for China. In April, Avic demonstrated a model of its Wing Loong II, an MQ-9 Reaper-size air system at an exhibition in Mexico—right in the U.S.’s backyard. In June, it debuted at the Paris Air Show, displayed with an array of Chinese-produced weaponry. Beijing’s success in the region revolves around two almost identical air systems, both virtual copies of the MQ-1 Predator. These are the. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) CH-4, known as Rainbow, and the Chengdu or Avic Wing Loong I, designated GJ-1 in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force service. One analysis puts the price of a CH-4 system at one-fifth that of an MQ-1. At Dubai, AVIC has gone one further with a static display of full scale mock-ups of the Wing Loong, Wing Loong II and a new jet-powered armed UAV called the Cloud Shadow. This UCAV, which resembles the General Atomics Predator C comes in three variants – a image/EO/IR reconnaissance version, an armed reconnaissance-strike version and a electronic reconnaissance (SIGINT/ELINT) variant. Powered by a WP-11C engine it has a range of 400km and can fly at 620km/hr.
With a USMC MV-22 example out on static, Bell and Boeing announced that the Osprey fleet had now passed 400,000 flying hours since it entered service in 2007. In service with both the USMC and USAF, upcoming tiltrotor operators include the US Navy and the first international customer, Japan, which had its first Osprey delivered in August. We really appreciate this event and expect to join again the press staff for the next edition in 2019. Globalairpower would like to thank all the Dubai Airshow press team for their assistance.