China’s biggest air show opened in Zhuhai on Tuesday with about half of the nation’s weapons systems on display for the first time at the event, according to organisers, including fighter aircraft and advanced radar equipment.
Dignitaries attending the opening ceremony for the six-day show included the Deputy Chairman of the powerful Central Military Comission, Fan Changlong, and the commander of the PLA Air Force Ma Xiaotian.
One of the highlights of the show will be China’s next generation J-20 fighter jet, the first public showing of the warplane.
It will fly over the show each day after taking off from an airfield in nearby Foshan, but visitors will not be able to view the aircraft close up on the ground.
A official in the People’s Liberation Air Force staff department, who would not give their name, said: “It is because the J-20 contains many of China’s top technologies in stealth aircraft plus other military secrets. The secrets include the J-20’s body shape, the proportion of its wing and body and other secrets as aircraft experts can easily calculate its stealth parameters from its exterior.”
Military enthusiasts will also be able to see country’s most advanced radar technology – the SLC-7 mobile surveillance radar system – at the show when it fully opens to the public on Friday.
It was developed by the 14th Research Institute at the China Electronic Technology Group Corporation, the pioneers of China’s radar industry.
It can operate at medium and high altitudes and carry out long-range surveillance.
Its developers claim it can detect targets within 300 km to 400 km, including cruise missiles and stealth aircraft like the F-35 and F-22 used by the US Air Force.
“The SLC-7 radar is debuting at the air show and it’s the first time we have announced its function to detect stealth aircraft,” one of corporation’s experts said, who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to journalists.
“The SLC-7 is the export model. We are going to target potential clients such as Pakistan, Egypt, Iran and some Middle East countries that see the US Air Force as their enemy. Of course, the same model used by the PLA Air Force is much more advanced than the SLC-7,” the official said.
The China Electronic Technology Group Corporation radar system experts refused to confirm whether the advanced SLC-7 system had been deployed on Yongxing Island in a disputed area of the South China Sea.
Satellite images have suggested that China has deployed four HQ-9 missile systems on the island.
“I can tell you that it’s impossible for the satellites to catch a real image of our radar systems at coastal areas because almost all of them have been placed under protective cover, looking like watermelon peel,” one expert said. “Military secrecy is one consideration. Another reason is to prevent sea and wind erosion and the effects of humidity.”
This year is the 20th anniversary of the air show.
Other weapons and aircraft, including the new Y-20 military transport plane, the H-6K bomber, the J-10B fighter jet and the KJ-500 early warning and control aircraft are also scheduled to fly or be on display.
Besides aerobatic teams from the PLA Air Force and their counterparts from Russia and Pakistan, Britain’s Red Arrows will also perform for the first time at the show, organisers said.