China is displaying its latest generation of fighter jets and civilian aircraft in Zhuhai as it seeks to carve out a bigger role for itself in the global arms trade and compete with Boeing and Airbus.
China is the world’s fourth largest arms exporter and a growing domestic industry has taken the liberty of cutting the old dependence on Russia. With strong state support, it now competes to sell drones, warplanes and missile defense systems, as well as its basic Cold War-era land-based weapons and ammunition.
Military aircraft on display include the J-20 stealth fighter and the YU-20 aerial tanker.
Between 2017 and 2021, China accounted for 4.6% of total global arms exports, ranking fourth behind the United States, Russia and France. The bulk of its exports have gone to Pakistan, a longtime ally that shares a common rival with the other regional giant, India.
On the civilian side, state-owned aircraft maker Commercial Aircraft Corp of China yesterday showed off its long-awaited and reportedly over-budget C919 aircraft for the first time, performing steep 45-degree turns. The C919 hopes to compete with the popular narrow-body Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX.
Earlier, four J-20 stealth fighter jets flew by in close formation.
For the first time, Airbus, Boeing and Comac all exhibited single-aisle aircraft at the show.
The display of the C919 came on the same day that China Southern Airlines operated its final Airbus A380 flight from Los Angeles to Guangzhou, marking the removal of the European superjumbo from its fleet. Comac has secured orders from several leasing companies for a set of 300 C919 and 30 ARJ21 regional jets.
China is also showcasing an FH-97A “Loyal Wingman” drone model designed to coordinate with manned aircraft. The aircraft is different from the FH-97, which is almost identical to the US-developed Kratos Defense and Security Solutions XQ-58A Valkyrie.
The FH-97A, meanwhile, looks more like the larger MQ-28 Ghost Bat developed by Boeing, according to the photographs.
“Zhuhai is of keen interest to Chinese aviation watchers seeking to understand China’s opaque commercial aerospace and defense sectors,” said Greg Waldron, Singapore-based Asia editor of the industry publication. FlightGlobal.
“Early images from the show suggest it will once again be a major bazaar of Chinese unmanned aerial vehicle technology that could one day accompany J-20 fighters into battle. drones at the show represent real programs with investment from the Chinese military,” Waldron added.
ASSOCIATED PRESS, REUTERS