China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition 2018 Preview
The biennial China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition - also known as Airshow China - promises to provide a rare window into the country's latest aircraft, weaponry, and technical advancements when it opens its doors from 6-11 November in Zhuhai, China.
Now in its 12th iteration, Airshow China is one of Asia-Pacific's most influential aerospace and defence exhibitions, along with other regional headliners, such as Aero India, Singapore Airshow and South Korea ADEX.
Previous editions of Airshow China have been used for the first public showings of China's ever-improving defence industrial capabilities, with new and more capable aircraft, such as the FC-31 stealth fighter prototype, J-20 multirole stealth combat aircraft, Y-20 airlifter, and KJ-200 airborne early warning and control aircraft.
Airshow China 2018 is expected to further up the ante. Early reports suggest that the much-anticipated J-20, which only made a brief flypast two years ago, will perform more intricate manoeuvres to demonstrate the People Liberation Army Air Force's increasing confidence and experience with its latest aircraft, which was only commissioned in September 2017.
A J-10C technology demonstrator, featuring an advanced thrust vector control propulsion system, is also expected to make its public debut, a possible indication of growing confidence or even breakthrough in aircraft engine development - an area which China has traditionally fell short. This could perhaps mark a new chapter in Chinese aero-engines.
The Chinese defence industry will also highlight its latest unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which in recent years have proliferated worldwide as easily accessible and comparatively affordable alternatives to Western platforms. For example, Chinese-made UAVs can now be found pursuing targets - also with Chinese-made UAV weapons - in the Middle East by operators, such as the Iraqi Army.
Another highlight of Airshow China 2018 will be the large selection of new and updated land, missile, and command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems. Although principally a commercial and defence aerospace event, land systems developers, such as China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO), will use it as a platform to showcase its latest combat and support vehicles with an expansive mobility demonstration in addition to a sprawling static display.
Strategic People Liberation Army (PLA) suppliers, such as China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), and China Electronics Technology Group (CETC), will reveal their missile and sensor system developments.
With Beijing aspiring to assert its dominance on the world stage and the PLA rapidly modernising to support President Xi Jinping's vision of revitalised China, Airshow China 2018 will once again send a message that the country is rapidly scaling the technology ladder in its quest to cement itself as a global power.
A pair of PLAAF J-20 stealth combat aircraft making a public debut at Airshow China 2016. Image credit: IHS Markit/Kelvin Wong
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