Winning: Russia And China Wait For Someone To Blink

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July 8, 2010: Russia is increasingly upset at how blatantly China has been copying Russian military equipment, and selling the copies in competition with the Russian originals. Particularly annoying is China’s building copies of the Su-27 (as the J-11 and the carrier version as the J-15.) Now Russia is threatening to play hardball, by refusing to sell China the high-performance engines needed for Chinese built fighters. A Chinese order for several hundred Russian RD93 jet engines from Russia is on hold. This order is believed to be for an ungraded RD93, with additional thrust. India, currently the major customer for Russian weapons, was not happy about this engine sale, which will be used for Chinese-made fighters sold to Pakistan. As of last year, India and Russia had worked out an unpublicized compromise to allow the sale, but now Russia is threatening to halt shipments if China does not back off on building illegal copies of Russian aircraft. China is a major customer for RD93 engines (originally designed for the MiG-29), and has already bought over a thousand of them. The RD93 engines currently cost about $2.5 million each. Halting the sale will cost Russian engine manufacturers over a billion dollars in revenue. But the Russians are tired of getting played by the Chinese, and believe that Chinese attempts to copy the RD93 are not succeeding, and China will be forced to pay licensing fees for the stolen Russian tech, or else equip their aircraft with inferior Chinese copies (the WS-13) of the Russian engines.

The Chinese made JF-17 (also known as FC-1) jet fighters are exported to Pakistan, and are being offered to Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Burma, Iran and Sri Lanka as inexpensive alternatives to American and Russian fighters. Hundreds of JF-17s are also going to be built in Pakistan, mainly using Chinese parts.

China has been developing a similar (apparently identical) engine to the RD93, the WS-13. Actually, this effort was aided by Russia for a while, by selling China technology needed for the manufacture of key engine components. Russia wasn't happy about this, because they didn't want competition in the low cost jet engine market. Then again, China has a history of stealing technology it cannot buy, so the Russians tried to make the best of a bad situation. China says the WS-13 is ready for service. The Russians believe otherwise. Building high performance military jet engines is difficult, and China has had problems mastering this kind of stuff. Not that they will not eventually acquire the skills, but until they do, they need the Russian made RD93s. Or so the Russians believe. Officially, China is still ordering RD93s because they cannot produce enough of their WS-13s.

Pakistan began receiving JF-17s three years ago, and activated its first JF-17 squadron five months ago. Last year, it signed a deal to buy the next 42, of 300, of these jets from China. These 42 will cost $14.3 million per aircraft. The final 250 will cost $12 million each. The aircraft is assembled in both Pakistan and China, with the engines coming from Russia, and most of the other components from China (which calls the aircraft the FC-1).

When the first JF-17 fighter arrived in Pakistan three years ago, it ended over twenty years of development for what was first called the Super 7 fighter. The JF-17 was developed by China in cooperation with Pakistan, which originally only wanted to buy 150 of them. All this came about because Pakistan could not get modern fighters from anyone else, and turned to China. At the time, China had nothing comparable to the early model F-16s Pakistan already had.

The 13 ton JF-17 is meant to be a low cost alternative to the American F-16. The JF-17 is considered the equal to earlier versions of the F-16, but only 80 percent as effective as more recent F16 models. The JF-17 design is based on a cancelled Russian project, the MiG-33. Most of the JF-17 electronics are Western, with Italian firms being major suppliers.

The JF-17 can carry 3.6 tons of weapons and use radar guided and heat seeking missiles. It has max speed of nearly 2,000 kilometers an hour, an operating range of 1,300 kilometers and a max altitude of nearly 18,000 meters (55,000 feet). China has not yet decided on whether it will use the FC-1/JF-17 itself. This is apparently because China believes its own J-10 (another local design) and J-11 (a license built Russian Su-27) are adequate for their needs. The J-10, like the JF-17, did not work out as well as was hoped, but that's another matter.

 

 


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