Perhaps the main element of our partnership with China has always been military-technical cooperation (MTC). Almost ten years ago, China bought from us a fairly wide range of weapons, including destroyers, combat and transport aircraft and helicopters, and even rocket technology - for a total of about 1,5-1,8 billion dollars a year. But at the beginning of this decade, the situation has changed dramatically.
Latest deliveries and first draft of a new type
Despite the fact that the volume of our military-technical cooperation with China in nominal terms remained almost at the same level, the range of military supplies has now drastically decreased. This is due to the gigantic success of the Chinese military industrial complex, which with its own forces was able to launch the production of very high-quality small arms weapons and armored vehicles of all kinds, as well as warships near and far ocean zones. At the same time, the Chinese industry is quite far advanced in the production of front-line fighters of the third generation and in the cloning of fourth-generation vehicles of Russian design and air defense systems. Moreover, a few years ago, China even presented a project of its own fifth generation fighter, which, however, looks very similar to the MiG created in our country at the turn of the century (1.44 product), which did not go into series.
As a result, now purchases of Russian equipment are of a point, if not selective nature. In other words, the Chinese acquire from us only the newest types of technology, which they have not yet learned to clone qualitatively, or it is, in principle, impossible at this stage. First of all, we are talking about Russian aviation engines RD-33, which are equipped with Chinese aircraft of the third generation FC-1, as well as the export version of the fifth generation fighter J-31. In addition, for their fourth generation J-10 and J-11 fighters (Su-30 clones), the Chinese buy from us AL-31F power plants. The thing is that own Chinese-made aircraft engines for these aircraft - WS-10, WS-13, WS-15 - have too little assigned resource. Three or four years ago, for example, for the WS-10 power plant, it was only about 300 hours, which is several times less than that of Russian counterparts. True, the Chinese have recently announced that they have managed to increase the resource of their engine up to 1500 hours, but they could not confirm this with any documents.
Finally, in addition to complex systems and subsystems for their military equipment, the Ministry of Defense of the PRC still continues to acquire the latest final samples from us. Thus, at the end of 2014, the PRC signed a contract with Russia for the supply of at least six divisions of the C-400 air defense system worth more than 3 billion dollars. A few months ago, an agreement was signed on the supply of X-NUMX X-NUMX fighter jets to the People's Republic of China for 24 billion dollars, which relate to the so-called 35 ++ generation. In the case of the C-2, the Chinese are primarily interested in the new radar and the new ultra-long-range missile, which along with other weapons of destruction is included in the kit of this air defense system. All the other components of our new system, the Chinese have long learned to do themselves. As for the Su-4, then China doesn’t have any special sense in buying these cars, but this contract simply could not be signed for political reasons, as it was discussed for a long time and is important from the point of view of the balance of the Russian-Chinese turnover. Nevertheless, it is necessary to clearly understand that the agreements on the Su-400 and C-35 are likely to become the latest supply contracts for finished Russian military equipment in the PRC. There is no doubt that further development of the technological partnership between Russia and China is possible only under the condition of jointly creating new sophisticated equipment, and not necessarily military, but necessarily the joint efforts of the designers of the two countries. Obviously, in Russia and China, they all understand this perfectly. That is why now Moscow and Beijing are staking on an equal technological partnership in the implementation of new joint projects. The first such project, in fact, has already started.
"ChinaRobus" for $ 20 billion
The Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov signed with his Chinese counterpart Miao Wei an intergovernmental agreement on joint development, production, commercialization and after-sales service of the new wide-body passenger aircraft. In China, he has already received the working title C929. This airliner should appear on the world market in about ten years and end the long-standing duopoly of the current industry leaders, Airbus and Boeing, who still dominate the segment of long-range large-capacity aircraft. Moreover, this program has every chance of becoming one of the most ambitious projects of Russian-Chinese cooperation in the field of high technologies. Its total cost is estimated at between 13 billion and 20 billion dollars.
It has already been decided that all the work on the new liner will be handled by a special joint venture, which the United Aircraft Building Corporation (UAC) and the Chinese civilian aircraft company COMAC will create on a parity basis. Moreover, as follows from the agreement signed by UAC President Yuri Slusar with the Chairman of the Board of Directors of COMAC Jin Zanglun, the new joint venture should be registered in the PRC by the end of this year.
The technical characteristics of the new liner are known only in the most general terms. It is assumed that this aircraft will accommodate 250-280 passengers and have a maximum range of 12 thousands of kilometers. The whole question is how COMAC and UAC agree on the distribution of work. It is clear that the Russian engineering school, unlike the Chinese, has all the necessary knowledge to create such a ship. We have already developed and produced wide-body aircraft with four engines - IL-86 and IL-96. True, by the beginning of this century they were uncompetitive, both because of high fuel consumption and due to the too low level of use of composite materials.
Nevertheless, Russia already has the experience of creating from scratch a technologically successful narrow-body aircraft that meets absolutely all world standards, which will certainly be in demand when designing a new wide-body model. This is about SSJ 100. Now in the world more than 70 of such machines are used, including in Ireland and in Mexico. Over the 4 year of operation, over 3 million passengers were transported to them. But the Chinese analogue of this car - ARJ21 - only last week made its first commercial flight. And this despite the fact that both aircraft began to be developed at the same time. But that is not all.
Just a month ago, our country proved to the world that it is also capable of creating a single-body mainline airliner, MC-21. This aircraft as a whole is more than 40% composed of composite materials, and its wings are almost 100%. The so-called black wings are a revolutionary innovation for narrow-body aircraft. Their use significantly reduces the total weight of the liner design and promises truly fantastic benefits during operation.
Nowadays, only four manufacturers own airframes for manufacturing full-size composite wings - more than 18 meters long and more than three meters wide - Airbus, Boeing, Canadian Bombardier and our UAC. Note that the Chinese in developing their own main narrow-body aircraft - С919 - did not even try to use this technology. As a result, the new Chinese liner is almost entirely made of aluminum alloys, which makes it uncompetitive in the global market.
Considering all this, it is logical to assume that for the new wide-body aircraft, Russia will make the wings and the tail unit, and our Chinese partners will make the fuselage. In the latter case, the widespread use of composite materials is not expected, so there is no need to worry about the work of Chinese colleagues. Nevertheless, the new liner already has one weak point - the engine. Neither we, let alone the PRC, have ever produced power plants for large twin-engine wide-body aircraft. This means that, at least at first, a GE, Rolls-Royce or Pratt & Whitney engine will be installed on the new Russian-Chinese liner. Most likely one of those that are equipped with Boeing 787-8 or Airbus A350-900. However, the Perm design bureau Aviadvigatel has already promised to develop its own Russian engine with a thrust of 10 tons - PD-35 for the new aircraft in 35 years. “We have calculated the approximate parameters of the engine and are ready for development. This is an expensive project, we tentatively estimate it at 180 billion rubles "- said the general director of Aviadvigatel Alexander Inozemtsev.
The management of the Chinese company COMAC hopes to launch a total of about 1 thousands of new wide-body aircraft along with UAC. And this task does not look unsolvable. According to Boeing’s predictions, in the next 20 years around the world, 8,8 thousands of wide-body airliners will be sold for a total of 2,7 trillion dollars. Of these, about 1,5 thousand are expected to be acquired by China. But Russia, in which only about 70 of such aircraft are currently being operated, will at best acquire only one and a half to two hundred. Nevertheless, taking into account the Chinese demand, this is quite enough for this project to take place.