(Reading time: 2 - 3 minutes)

The bi-annual Airshow China at Zhuhai is more or less the only chance to get a view on modern Chinese aviation hardware, and to take some legal photos of it. That was the main reason to go there once again, and this is how it came out in the end.

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Where? Zhuhai, People's Republic of China
When? November 2012

To already forestall my conclusion: I have not been very impressed by this year's event. Fortunately you cannot blame the weatherman, because apart from the opening day the weather at this year's airshow was dull and grey. But as a hazy sky is usually the order of the day, this has been the lesser evil.

My personal disappointment has been the participation in the flying program, as there were not any really new things in the air. The only Chinese jet was the Chengdu J-10 as part of the "August 1st" display team.

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Zhuhai12 J 10 Team 6129 Zeitler 100 67 85
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Zhuhai12 J 10 Team 6207 Zeitler 100 67 85
Zhuhai12 J 10 Team 6221 Zeitler 100 67 85
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Zhuhai12 J 10 Team 6757 Zeitler 100 67 85
Zhuhai12 So 5774 Zeitler 700 470 90
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This was strengthened by the Russian Knights and their Su-27s as well as the Breitling Jet Team on the L-39 Albatross.

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And of course the Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 "Thunder" was also present as a well-known regular guest from previous editions:

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Zhuhai12 JF 17 6861 Zeitler 100 67 85
Zhuhai12 JF 17 6864 Zeitler 100 67 85
Zhuhai12 JF 17 6868 Zeitler 100 67 85
Zhuhai12 Z 8 6179 Zeitler 100 67 85
Zhuhai12 Zhuhai 6935 Zeitler 100 67 85
Zzuhai12 Breitling Wingwalkers 6352 Zeitler 100 67 85

The highlight were the Changhe Z-10 and Harbin Z-19 combat helicopters. Though the Z-10 is already in service with the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) Aviation, their still quite secretive status was highlighted by the fact that they were only flown in for their flying display and did not touch the ground at any time. Well out of reach only their exterior details were visible through long telelenses:

Zhuhai12 Z 10 6370 Zeitler 700 470 90
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On the ground the Chinese Predator, the "Wing Loong" UAV was placed a bit aside on the newly arranged showground. It was parked in close neighbourhood to some more indigenous UAVs and mock-ups of future projects.
Talking about the showground it was good to see that the PLAAF got its own large exhibition space at this event, uniting their static display aircraft in one area. The highlight for sure was the H-6, the Chinese version of the Tu-16, but also aircraft as the J-8, JH-7 or the K-8 trainer are not seen everyday.

Zhuhai12 H 6 5925 Zeitler 700 470 90
Zhuhai12 H 6 5925 Zeitler 100 67 85
Zhuhai12 Historic PLA AF 5912 Zeitler 100 67 85
Zhuhai12 J 8 5892 Zeitler 100 67 85
Zhuhai12 JH 7 5885 Zeitler 100 67 85
Zhuhai12 K 200 5874 Zeitler 100 67 85
Zhuhai12 Z 9 5931 Zeitler 100 67 85
Zhuhai12 So 6186 Zeitler 700 470 90
Zhuhai12 So 6186 Zeitler 100 67 85
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Zhuhai12 So 6598 Zeitler 100 67 85
Zzuhai12 J 10 Team 6654 Zeitler 100 67 85

Contrary to 2010 however the historic collection did not participate in the flying program, but was only displayed on ground:

Zhuhai12 Static 5784 Zeitler 700 470 90
Zhuhai12 Static 5784 Zeitler 100 67 85
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Zhuhai12 Y12F 6458 Zeitler 100 67 85

And to continue with the comparison to the last addition a larger area of the static display was used this year for general and business aviation, and to handle the large number of visitors that came for the public days of the event.

Zhuhai12 So 6176 Zeitler 700 470 90
Zhuhai12 So 6176 Zeitler 100 67 85
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Zhuhai12 So 6671 Zeitler 100 67 85

To summarize Airshow China is a great event to see military hardware that you do not get to see every day, however the exhibits do not really represent the pace that reports on first flights and new developments suggest. And hoping for an open approach regarding the display of their state-of-the-art aircraft will for sure still take some time. I would, however, like to be proven to be wrong!

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