Category Archives: China

Satellite images show Chinese fighter jets deployed to base in Tibet

The following Google Earth screenshots were taken by The Aviationist reader Nicolae Sinu.

They show the airfield in Tibet where five Chinese J-11 fighter jets (indigenous Su-27 Flankers) appear to be based.

6 J11

The base is a part of Chinese strategy of widening China’s power in the Indian region and it is considered to be a response to the Indian air bases of Chabua and Tezpur in Assam region.

5 J11s.small

Image credit: Google Earth

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China deploys Su-27 fighter jets to Tibet

The Chinese have recently created a Su-27 airbase in Tibet, as CNN-IBN reports. It was made official just recently as several of these planes were spotted in Gonkar airbase last winter.

China Su-27

Image credit: People’s Daily Online

Lack of infrastructure and high altitude (about 11,500 feet above the Sea Level) are claimed to be limiting factor for the operationability of the Flankers.

Altitude is said not only to affect the planes, but also the pilots who have to get used to lack of oxygen at that altitude, just like Himalayan climbers do.

It is claimed by CNN that enough infrastructure has been created for the fighters. It has been built for several years in secrecy and that’s why India, that is located in a close vicinity, feels endangered.

The base is a part of Chinese strategy of widening China’s power in the Indian region.  The base is considered to be a response to the Indian air bases of Chabua and Tezpur in Assam region. These bases are home for Indian Su-30MKI‘s capable of hitting targets in Tibet and China.

On the flipside, the Indian territories that are within the operational range of the Chinese fighters are located between  Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh regions.

Image Credit: Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, U.S. Air Force, US DoD

When it comes to airports located quite high the Lukla airport in Nepal is one of the most famous ones. This airport is a base for climbers who are planning Mt. Everest expeditions. Nevertheless it is not located as high as the Chinese base (about 9,400 feet).

Here’s a bit scary video showing a landing at Lukla airport:

And another one, showing how the airport works from another perspective:

The runway ends with an almost vertical surface of the mountain, therefore it is one-way runway, without touch and go or go around options.

Nevertheless, despite being dangerous, the second video shows that it is quite busy.

Coming back to the Su-27s, the Chinese fighters stationed in the region are a part of established Nash equillibrium, as both India and China are in possession of nuclear armament: the recontextualization of Cold War political scheme is still present within the global political landscape.

Jacek Siminski for The Aviationist

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New image of China’s first weaponized stealth drone emerges (as US launched its own one from an aircraft carrier)

Few hours before the U.S. Navy launched the the Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator off the deck of an aircraft carrier for the first time, a new clear side image of Lijian (“sharp sword”), China’s first weaponized stealth drone has emerged from the Chinese Internet.

A coincidence?

Lijian clear

Image credit: Chinese Internet via Alert5

The drone is quite interesting, as it features the characteristic dark paint (most probably RAM – Radar Absorbing Material), a large frontal air intake, a “normal” landing gear (as opposed to the reinforced one of the X-47B, needed to absorb the shock of the heavy landing on a flattop) and sports the code “001” that denotes the first aircraft of such type.

Noteworthy is also a sort of false canopy (like the one some combat planes have got on the underside, directly underneath the front of the plane to confuse an enemy so he does not know in what direction the aircraft is headed/turning), seemingly painted on the UCAV to give planes flying in the vicinity of the drone, the idea a pilot could be sitted inside it.

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This is the first clear image of China’s new Stealth killer drone

Coming from the Chinese Internet, the following image shows the Lijian (“sharp sword”), China’s first weaponized stealth drone.


via Room

According to Duowei News, the drone is ready for its maiden flight after completing its taxi tests in December last year.

Designed jointly by the Hongdu Aviation Industry Group and Shenyang Aviation Corporation, the Lijian is quite similar to both the U.S. X-47B and the European nEUROn.


Chinese Internet via China Times

H/T to Al Clark for the heads-up

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China’s new stealth fighter’s missile launch rails prove Beijing can improve U.S. technology

In order to preserve their stealthiness and keep the RCS (Radar Cross Section) as low as possible, radar-evading planes rely on weapons bay: bombs and missiles to be fired are kept inside the bays until it’s time to use them.

For instance, the F-35 can carry one AIM-120D (AIM-120C8), on a trapeze : when needed, the BVR (Beyond Visual Range) missile is lowered into the airstream on the open bomb bay door, and ejected.

F-22 Raptors use canted trapeze to put the AIM-9 Sidewinder seeker into the airstream to achieve a lock on the target as the side bay doors are open.


Image credit: U.S. Air Force

Once the missile is fired, the bay doors close up.

Obviously, such method requires the stealth plane to fly with the open bay doors for a certain amount of time, a condition that can limit the aircraft performance, maneuverability, and increases the overall plane’s RCS, with a temporary exposure of the aircraft to the enemy radars.

Something that can be quite lethal in a Within Visual Range scenario.

The problem is to be partly solved with the use of missiles featuring the Lock On After Launch capability. With this kind of missile (available on the Raptor when the AIM-9M will be replaced by the AIM-9X Block II) the bay doors remain open just the time it is needed to eject the missile into the airstream.

However, China might have found a clever solution to the problem, as the latest images of the J-20 Mighty Dragon stealth fighter jet, emerging from the Chinese Internet, seem to suggest.

J-20 2002 side bay maybe - out mod 2

Indeed, the second prototype of the aircraft features a missile deployment device on the side weapons bay which extracts the selected air-to-air missile and then closes the door to keep the reduced RCS.

J-20 missile deployment device

Simpler and probably cheaper than the use of LOAL missiles, the J-20’s deployment device shows that Chinese engineers are not simply copying U.S. tech: if not improving it, they are at least troubleshooting some of the issues already faced by their American counterparts, with some clever ideas.

Missile launch rail

Graphs from Chinese forums

The missile launch rail was used to carry the PL-10 IR air-to-air missile during tests.

Anyway, it’s worth noticing that along with AIM-9X missiles, the F-22 pilots will receive Scorpion HMCS (Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems) that will be particularly useful in case of dogfight. There are no information about similar helmets being fielded to Chinese fighter planes.

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