PLA Air Force becomes strategic, to display latest weapons, achievements at airshow
Latest equipment to debut at airshow
Published: Aug 31, 2021 08:01 PM Updated: Aug 31, 2021 09:43 PM
China's J-20 stealth fighter jet displays its new coating of stealth material and flies over the exhibition hall at Airshow China 2018 on Tuesday. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

China's J-20 stealth fighter jet displays its new coating of stealth material and flies over the exhibition hall at Airshow China 2018 on Tuesday. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force will display its latest achievements that have transformed the Chinese military into a strategic force on its way to becoming world class, at the Airshow China 2021, the service announced on Tuesday, with military observers predicting that the "20 family" aircraft, namely the J-20 fighter jet, Y-20 large transport aircraft and Z-20 utility helicopter, will likely again be in the spotlight but with new surprises.

The latest variant of the WS-10 Taihang turbofan engine will also be on display, event organizers said.

As a historic achievement, the Chinese Air Force has crossed the threshold to become a strategic air force, Senior Colonel Shen Jinke, spokesperson of the PLA Air Force, said on Tuesday at a media briefing for Airshow China.

The Air Force will display its latest achievements that have transformed it into a strategic force on its way to becoming world class, Shen said.

The Air Force is now capable of effectively carrying out duties and missions in the new era, with more J-20s and Y-20s entering service, domestically developed new-type surface-to-air missiles ready for combat, and the steady increase in capabilities for strategic early warning, aerial strike, air defense, anti-missile, information countermeasures, airborne combat, strategic transport and comprehensive support, Shen said.

In 2018, the Air Force announced a roadmap to become a strategic force by 2020, become modern by 2035 and become world class by the mid-21st century, the Xinhua News Agency reported. This means that 2021 is the first year since the Air Force has become strategic.

The PLA Air Force used to be a tactical force because it lacked advanced, large and long-range aircraft, but it has entered the realm of strategic force because it now operates strategic transport aircraft, mid-to-long-range strategic bombers and advanced fighter jets, supported by advanced drones and special mission aircraft like early warning aircraft, aerial tankers, electronic warfare aircraft and reconnaissance aircraft, Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

It not only has advanced equipment, but also a full system that makes it truly strategic, Fu said.

After being postponed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the airshow from September 28 to October 3 in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province, will have a lot to offer, observers said.

The J-20 stealth fighter jet will likely again perform, and could make more daring moves, Fu said.

Some military enthusiasts also hope that more J-20 jets will participate in the airshow, and that the J-20 could make its first static display on the ground.

The Y-20 large transport aircraft will also likely reappear at the airshow, Fu said, noting that it would be a nice surprise if the aerial tanker variant of the Y-20 makes its debut.

While having made several public appearances since its debut at the National Day military parade on October 1, 2019 in Beijing, the Z-20 utility helicopter could make its first Airshow China appearance, Fu said.

Existing Z-20s are PLA Army versions, and it is widely believed that the helicopter will spawn variants for the Navy, the Air Force and other services, observers said.

There are bound to be more surprises, just like the flight performance of the J-10B thrust vector control demonstrator at the airshow in 2018, Fu said, noting that the only remaining member in the "20 family" that has yet to be unveiled, the rumored H-20 stealth strategic bomber, will unlikely make it.

In addition to equipment of the PLA Air Force, Chinese arms firms will also bring state-of-the-art exhibits covering land, maritime, aviation, aerospace and electronics available for export to the airshow, with many of them making debuts, including combat vehicles, underwater weapons, warplanes, aero engines, missiles, drones, and radars, the event organizers told the Global Times on Tuesday.

China North Industries Group Corporation Limited and China South Industries Group will bring hundreds of equipment that cover mobile assault, fire assault, unmanned systems, all-terrain mobile synthetic battalion system, individual combat equipment, wheeled fire attack equipment, terminal defense combat system, precision ammunition and civilian firearms, with many being new exhibits. Over 30 types of ground equipment, such as the combat tank VT4, the lightweight VT5, the 8x8 armored tank VN1, will perform a variety of tactical operations including slope climbing, water obstacles crossing, and snake-like maneuvers.

Making its debut at Airshow China under the new brand name, China State Shipbuilding Corporation Limited will bring 60 types of marine defense equipment and solutions at the show, including unmanned combat systems, underwater weapons and smart equipment.

Aviation Industry Corporation of China will display 149 pieces of independently developed aircraft equipment and technologies, more than 50 of which will be exhibited for the first time, including the first flight performance of the Wing Loong II drone, and Aero Engine Corporation of China will exhibit the latest variant of the WS-10 Taihang turbofan engine, which is mainly used by warplanes.

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation will put the M20A/B surface-to-surface missile weapon system and the LY-70 air defense missile weapon system on display for the first time, and China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation will display its capabilities covering air defense, coastal defense, ground attack, unmanned combat, early warning, surveillance and security, commercial space, and communication and support systems.

China Electronics Technology Group will cover electronic equipment, network system, industrial base, and network security, with about 500 exhibits featuring low/extra-low altitude defense system, radar system, strategic early warning system, advanced electronic components, integrated circuits, and special electronic materials, including 50 sets of large-sized equipment that will be installed for real display, while China Electronics Corporation will display more than 100 types of products in the field of network security, digital services, military electronics and other applications.

Airshow China has become a comprehensive defense exhibition that can meet all types of demands of a military, analysts said.

China's latest achievement in its outer space exploration, such as the Mars probe Tianwen-1, the Lunar probe Chang'e-5, the Constellation deployment of the BeiDou-3 Global navigation satellite system, the re-entry module of the new generation of manned spacecraft test ship, will also be highlighted at the airshow.