Focus on defence self-reliance

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 September, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 September, 1999, 12:00am

The Communist Party's 50th anniversary in power will mark the debut of the first Chinese-designed fighter-bomber, the result of Beijing's efforts to lessen its military reliance on other countries.

'For such a large country as [China], we must have our own national protection industry system. Relying on anyone is not allowed,' said Chen Yijian, overall designer of the Flying Leopard.

On October 1, more than 10 years after the first test flight, the Flying Leopard will make its public debut during the Tiananmen Square flyover.

The Flying Leopard, also known as the FBC-1, is a twin-seater supersonic fighter-bomber that can carry four missiles weighing a total of five tonnes, has a high degree of automation and can obtain speeds 1.7 times that of the speed of sound, so about 2050km/h.

Aspects of the Flying Leopards are considered to rival the latest American and Russian fighter planes.

One Chinese military commentator has said the new plane, which has a fuel capacity of 10 tonnes, can take off from a location north of the Yangtze River, fly over the Pacific Ocean and attack the opposite shore without refuelling in mid-flight.

Almost 20 years ago, the China Aviation Industry Number One Group Company started work on the Flying Leopard when the mainland's navy and air force lacked an efficient air-to-ground deterrent.

For the first time, Chinese aviation designers did not have to use Soviet models because they were able to access information on American-designed fighter planes after the 1978 reforms.

Since 1981, more than 10,000 aviation specialists have worked on the Flying Leopard.

Still, Mr Chen told the Beijing Youth Daily the plane was not the most modern in the world.

Initially, there were four preliminary designs, including one that was similar to the current SU-27 plane.

The project team had to choose a smaller design because, at that time, China lacked a wind tunnel large enough to conduct flight tests for large aircraft.

Another factor preventing the designers from building a superior plane was the pressure of time.

The Government has already started production on the plane to equip its military, but the number of planes ordered was not reported.

China's aviation industry, which started during the Korean War, has produced more than 10,000 military planes with a range of more than 60 designs.