For the past month, we haven’t had any new worthy photos coming out, but there are some new designs being talked about. In particular, Richard Fisher’s recent article listed several possible new programs. http://www.strategycenter.net/research/pubID.163/pub_detail.asp
First, the mysterious 081 (don’t want to get in a debate on whether this is a LHD or LPH)
Now, some form of helo carrier have been discussed on Chinese military bbs for a while. And for sure, there is a need for something like this in PLAN, but there are some major fundamental problems too. The problem is the lack of aerial assets that can go on such a ship. Currently, the domestic options are Z-9C and the naval variant of Z-8F (which just go recently unveiled) and the import options are Ka28/31. Back in 2006, there was a major deal between China/Russia widely discussed for 20 Ka-31 and 40 ka-29. Since then, we haven’t heard much about it, since the military cooperation between the two countries seemed to have stalled this year. So, we are down to a helicopter that’s too small, a helicopter that is too old and a helicopter that is slight old and a little inaccessible. In the near future, Z-15 and the 10 tonne helicopter under development are possible options in the future. Either way, having a capable naval helicopter has always been an issue for PLAN.
Next, the so called new frigate that China will be building. Richard Fisher stated in his article
“According the French and German sources interviewed at IMDEX, the PLAN is developing a new class of frigate to accompany the Type 054A air defense frigate now in series production. There was apparently a competition between the engines of the French firm SEMT Pielstick and Germany’s MTU, to provide the new diesel engine which will be paired with a gas turbine. MTU won. The new frigate will use two diesels and two turbines, a conventional configuration that could support a range of mission requirements. But the sources interviewed had no insights regarding the size, mission and configuration for this new ship.”
In my opinion, this is not a new class per se, but rather a follow up variant (054B). So I think using CODOG arrangement means the following:
- Larger displacement -> more space for weaponary
- Quieter propulsion -> better for ASW purposes
- Improved sensors -> As we saw on 891, an entire new set of sensors are being tested. Maybe it’s going on to the remaining 054A or maybe they are for 054B
Finally, there has been some news from the aircraft engine side. It has been brought up recently that Shenyang Liming and Salyut are improving their cooperation in the area of aerospace engine. It was mentionned that the variant 99M is possibly presented for J-10. According to certain sources, Salyut mentioned that China funded part of its development. There are certain requirements for 99M that seemed to be more important for PLAAF than RuAF. Currently, there are speculations on whether or not this cooperation means just sales or licensed production and ToT. We will have to wait and see how this turns out.