On the eve of the 2010 Singapore Air Show, RICHARD GARDNER looks at evolving air power in the Asia-Pacific defence market.

This is an excerpt from an article published in Aerospace International: February 2010
Defence and aerospace leaders from all over the Asia-Pacific region will be heading towards the Changi exhibition site in February to see what is of interest in one of the world’s most dynamic defence markets. For the global giants, especially those based in Europe, suffering from a general downturn in home defence business, this region represents a highly valuable export outlet which can play a key role in extending production flows through the recession period. There is no shortage of competitors when it comes to multi-role fast jet combat aircraft. Europe, the US, Russia and China all produce advanced products that can offer a significant performance edge over what has gone before, and the biggest issues in selecting a winning bid tend to centre on perceived value for money and offsets. Bidding for a new front-line fighter can be a very costly exercise — especially when the would-be customer decides to press the pause button towards the end of the process. With millions invested in the bidding procedure, and huge quantities of documentation often required to accompany a bid, the track-record of some air forces does not always encourage companies to persist at any cost. However, there is growing evidence that in the Asia-Pacific market, customers are well prepared for making important decisions on major defence programmes — they know what they want, and what they want to pay. But just as in the largest air forces, the capability of the latest combat aircraft and their high acquisition costs means that front-line fleets can no longer be replaced on a numerical basis.

Aerospace International Contents - February 2010

  • Aerospace News 4
  • News Roundup 5
  • News focus 11
  • Asia marches on 12 An overview of Asian military air power
  • As the city sleeps 16 On the night shift with UPS cargo
  • The sky’s the limit 20 USA’s rocky road towards NextGen ATC
  • Sharing the air 24 Regulating civil and military airspace
  • Window on the East 27 Preview of the Singapore Airshow
  • Keeping ahead of the game 28 A profile of NetJets
  • Number crunching 32 Focus on computer codes in aircraft
  • The last word 34 Keith Hayward on defence procurement

The Dragon rises

China’s Peoples’ Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is now embarked on an expansion phase that looks likely to see both greatly increased production of Chinese-developed combat aircraft, such as the J-10 family, and imported and licence-produced Russian designs, such as the Su-30MKK and Su-27SK, also known as the Jian-11. China is developing its own multi-role version with a new engine, avionics and weapons system. An enhanced version of the Su-30, the MKK2 has a much greater potential ISTAR capability and the ability to carry long-range Kh-31 anti-ship cruise missiles. The closer relationship with Russia on defence matters has resulted in newer aircraft being offered to replace some of China’s oldest operational aircraft, including transports and tankers, as well as fighters. The J-10 was designed to provide an agile air defence platform, able to counter the latest Western combat jets but it, too, is also being developed into a multi-role combat platform, with the latest B variant having a more advanced defensive aids suite. China is known to be working on a fifth-generation fighter, claimed to be stealthy but it remains to be seen if this will enter production in the next decade.

Royal Aeronautical Society
26 February 2010