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.
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.
This was strengthened by the Russian Knights and their Su-27s as well as the Breitling Jet Team on the L-39 Albatross.
And of course the Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 “Thunder” was also present as a well-known regular guest from previous editions.
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:
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.
Contrary to 2010 however the historic collection did not participate in the flying program, but was only displayed on ground.
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.
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!