China's tenth annual International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhahai kicked off this weekend and what an incredible display of China's growing air combat capability it was. Acclaimed aviation photographer and journalist Ivan Voukadinov was there to capture all the action, and here are some of the highlights:
The Shenyang J-31, China's F-35-ish stealthy medium weight fighter was certainly the star of the show, making its first public debut at Zhuhai '14. It is rumored that a verison of this jet will end up flying from China's aircraft carriers and another will be available for export. Unlike the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the J-31's design was not hampered by a short-takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) requirement.
Russia's most advanced single pilot multi-role Su-27 Flanker fighter derivative, the Su-35 Terminator, took part in the display. China is said to be on the verge of executing a deal with Russia that would result in an initial batch of 24 SU-35s delivered to the the PLAAF.
Many believe by purchasing the Su-35 it will allow China to eventually clone the jet's advanced avionics and sub-systems for use in their burgeoning stealth J-20 and J-31 programs. Technologies gained from the purchase could also be retrofitted into their wide array of Flanker derivatives already in service with the communist nation.
China's indigenously developed strategic air-lifter, the Y-20, which can be loosely described as a C-17 clone, was another star of the show:
The Changdu J-10 'Vigorous Dragon,' an aircraft that has rapidly become the backbone of the PLAAF and is loosely analogous to the F-16 in USAF service, took part in the display as the 'August 1st Aerobatic Team.'
China's semi-homemade airborne warning and control system (AWACS), the KJ-2000/KJ-3000 was shown off during the aerial display as well. This system uses a highly modified Russian Il-76 airframe in a similar configuration as the Russian A-50 'Mainstay,' but is filled primary with Chinese electronics, including a massive active electronically scanned array radar system. Developing and fielding such an advanced radar array is seen a source of nationalistic pride for the PLAAF. The KJ-2000/3000 is roughly equivalent in concept to the US E-3 Sentry AWACS.
The KJ-200, otherwise known as the Y-8 'Balance Beam,' also flew this weekend at Zhuhai. Also an AWACS concept, the KJ-200 is smaller and is said to be especially well suited for medium range aerial and even surface surveillance around coastal 'littoral' areas. The Y-8's AESA radar configuration is similar to one developed by Swedish defense manufacturer Ericsson, known as the Erieye AESA, which is flying on Saab turboprops and Embraer legacy jets around the globe.
Showcasing Russia increasingly tighter strategic and trade relationship with China, they sent their Russian Knights Su-27 display team along with an Il-76 support transport for the super-sized air show.
Finally, China's indigenously developed fly-by-wire equipped regional jet, the ARJ21, was displayed. The aircraft has had some serious teething problems, but demand remains high for it in throughout China. Even an FAA certification is said to be a long-term goal.
A huge thanks to our extremely talented and good friend Ivan Voukadinov for all these wonderful images. You can see more of Ivan's work here and with any luck, we will see more of his work right here on Foxtrot Alpha in the future.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com