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Swift win: Chinese military aircraft show links to Western technology

Two Chengdu J-20 stealth fighters perform during Airshow China 2022 at Zhuhai on 8 November. (Zhou Guoqiang/VCG via Getty Images)

China's development of military air platforms continues to show strong links to designs and concepts originating from the West.

During Airshow China 2022, 121 aircraft (including models) and 54 types of ground equipment were displayed by more than 740 companies worldwide, according to Chinese state-owned media. Out of this, 55% of exhibits were unveiled for the first time, according to the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). The corporation added that 43 exhibits were domestically developed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

In addition, about 50 aircraft and associated weapons and equipment displayed at the air show were developed by domestic industry and operated by the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), AVIC said.

Janes assessment of 14 technology demonstrators, in-service aircraft or models exhibited at the air show found design or capability similarities with platforms in other countries.

The technologies included a new variation of China's Feihong-97 ‘loyal wingman' unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), an amphibian aircraft, a general transport utility aircraft, a range of surveillance and combat UAVs, and a family of in-development high-performance jet engines. Several new aircraft and UAVs were brought to the show for the first time. Among these was the Harbin Aircraft Industries Group (HAIG) Z-8L, a 13,000 kg large wide-body transport helicopter. The Chengdu Aircraft Industries (Group) Company's (CAC's) J-20 stealth fighter landed in Zhuhai for the first time.

China's willingness to endure public scrutiny of its most advanced platforms reveals a growing maturity in its aircraft technology programmes. The US Department of Defense (DoD) said in its 2021 China Military Power Report to the US Congress that the rapid expansion of China's military programmes is being driven by Beijing's 14th Five-Year Plan.

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