Model of newest fighter jet on display at Zhuhai air show

Nation's largest air show in Zhuhai features daily acrobatics displays, but the closest fans will get to newest stealth fighter is a scale model

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2012, 4:35am

Aircraft enthusiasts hoping to catch a glimpse of the nation's state-of-the-art military aircraft are out in force in Zhuhai this week as it hosts the nation's largest air show, which opened yesterday and lasts until Sunday.

Twenty PLA aircraft will make an appearance, including the newly unveiled WZ-10 attack helicopter, and there is a ground-based exhibit about China's second stealth fighter, the J-31, which is still in development but is said to resemble the United States' aircraft-carrier-based F-35.

The J-31 display features only a one-quarter scale model of the jet, but it was surrounded by journalists and overseas military exhibitors yesterday. The PLA Daily website also posted pictures of the black aircraft model, but identified it only as an "Advanced Fighter Concept".

China's first stealth fighter, the J-20, was unveiled early last year, but it is not expected to enter service until 2018.

About 150 military and civilian aircraft and products are on display at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, which has been held every two years since 1996.

Forty-four are being shown for the first time, said Tan Ruisong , president of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (Avic) - the nation's sole manufacturer of military aircraft and a sponsor of the show with the People's Liberation Army.

Separately, Sina.com quoted Avic vice-president Li Fangyong as saying that his company spent 10 billion yuan (HK$12.2 billion) and several years making the WS-10A Taihang aircraft engine suitable for use in the air force's fighter jets, allowing China to produce its own fighter engines rather than relying on ones from Russia.

Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the Canada-based Kanwa Asian Defence Monthly, said the engine had indeed been improved, but it still did not compare with Russia's Saturn AL-31FN engine, used in Chinese fighters that were modelled after Russian aircraft.

"The WS-10A is only used by a small number of PLA planes, such as the J-11B, due to its limitations," he said, adding that the PLA would have to rely on Russian engines in the next few years for safety reasons.

"Aeroplane engines are very complicated and challenging pieces of technology that take time to develop," Chang said. "The WS-10A is not as good as the engines produced by Russia, or the US and European countries."

The biennial Zhuhai air show is the only international aerospace trade show in China endorsed by the government.

The show would include entertainment, the organisers said, with the PLA's "August 1st" aerobatic and parachute team performing daily, along with overseas stunt teams such as the Knights of the Russian Air Force and the Breitling Wingwalkers.