Airshow China 2021: Chinese air force displays J-20A powered by domestic engines

by Andreas Rupprecht & Alessandra Giovanzanti

A screengrab from footage released by CCTV on 26 September – two days before the start of the Airshow China 2021 defence exhibition – showing a J-20A fighter aircraft in flight fitted with locally developed WS10C engines. (CCTV)

The People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has, for the first time, demonstrated to the public a variant of the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG) J-20A twin-engined, fifth-generation, multirole fighter aircraft powered by indigenously developed engines.

Two examples of this variant were shown during an aerial display that marked the beginning of the Airshow China 2021 defence exhibition, which is being held from 28 September to 3 October in Zhuhai.

Based on available imagery, the two J-20As featured WS10C turbofan engines, but they did not bear serial numbers on their tails, thus making it difficult to determine which unit they are assigned to.

Since about September 2019 several J-20As have been spotted at CAIG's production facility in Chengdu-Huangtianba featuring indigenous WS10C turbofans, which have replaced the type's initial Russian-made Saturn AL-31FN-series engines.

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NATO publishes ‘Overarching Space Policy' document

by Olivia Savage

NATO headquarters. (NATO)

On 17 January NATO published its ‘Overarching Space Policy', setting out the fundamental aspects of the space domain and its importance in preserving the alliance's security and prosperity.

It is an acknowledgement of NATO's increasing reliance upon space-based capabilities and their importance in supporting the delivery of communications, navigation, intelligence, and situational awareness, among other operational necessities.

The policy document started with a framework agreement in June 2019, when the alliance decided to formulate and adopt a specific space policy.

The document outlines in detail the space-related threat environment, noting that “potential adversaries are developing, testing, and operationalising sophisticated counter-space technologies that could threaten allies' access to and freedom to operate in space”. These threats vary from non-kinetic systems such as jamming of communications or Global Positioning System (GPS) to kinetic capabilities such as “direct-ascent anti-satellite missiles, on-orbit anti-satellite systems, and laser and electromagnetic capabilities”, it adds.

The policy includes a core set of principles, the most important one being the recognition that space is vital for deterrence and defence, ensuring free access to space, and collaborating with allies to avoid the duplication of efforts.

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Philippines progresses plan to procure 32 new S-70i Black Hawk helicopters

by Ridzwan Rahmat

Manila has made further progress with its plan to procure 32 additional new Sikorsky S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana disclosed on 16 January that a notice of award (NOA) was issued to PZL Mielec of Poland on 28 December 2021 for the airframes.

The indicative contract value for the project is PHP32 billion (USD624 million) and it will include a logistics and training package for pilots and maintenance crew.

The Philippines ordered an initial batch of 16 S-70is in 2019 for USD241 million.

The airframes were first delivered to the PAF's 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing in November 2020 with the last five helicopters inducted in December 2021. One of the airframes was lost in a June 2021 crash.

Airframes that are in service are for roles such as close-air support operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, and medical evacuations.

A contract agreement for the 32 additional airframes is being drafted, after which a notice to proceed will be issued to PZL Mielec to officially mark the commencement of the programme, said Lorenzana on his official social media channel.

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Thales Alenia Space to build two SDS satellites for Intelsat

by Olivia Savage

Thales Alenia Space has been contracted to deliver two Space Inspire software-defined satellites. (Thales Alenia Space )

Intelsat has contracted Thales Alenia Space – a joint venture between Thales and Leonardo – for the production of two software-defined satellites (SDSs).

The satellites, IS-41 and IS-44, will be based on the Space Inspire product line and are scheduled to be in service by 2025.

SDSs are more flexible than traditional types of satellites as they enable the user to reconfigure and reprogram on demand and in orbit. More traditional types are commonly launched for a single purpose and although they can be upgraded, this often takes longer to implement.

Instelsat general manager Dave Micha told Janes, “We're at the forefront of the move to SDS, which will allow us to design beams of different shapes and sizes and reconfigure coverage plans on-the-fly. For example, satellite beams could track particular planes or ships and dynamically allocate capacity precisely where it's needed.”

Thales Alenia Space said its Space Inspire satellites provide seamless telecommunications mission and services reconfigurations and immediate in-orbit alterations to broadband connectivity.

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The People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has, for the first time, demonstrated to the public a...

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