Sunday, 11 March 2012

A Brief History of the South African Navy - Part 2

(Part 1 published 10.03.12)

On 1 April 2002, the South African Navy (SAN) was 80 years old. At that stage a large number of the members of the Navy were involved in planning for the arrival of four new frigates and three new submarines, or had already commenced training for service on board the new ships and submarines.

On commemorating the SAN's 80th anniversary, we indeed have to reflect on the history of the Navy. This study focuses on only one aspect of the Navy's history, namely, foreign flag-showing cruises. The primary task of the SAN is to protect the Republic of South Africa (RSA) and its inhabitants and interests against any form of foreign threat. However, in peace time, the Navy has an equally important role to play; for example, it may be expected to undertake support operations, including diplomatic support in the form of visits to other countries. Traditionally, diplomatic interactions among countries involve the exchange of diplomats, mutual state and other political visits, as well as holding summits and other kinds of talks. Throughout the ages, however, seafaring nations have developed the tradition sometimes to send warships on visits to one another; for example, to participate in joint Navy manoeuvres, but mostly for purposes of strengthening or forming new bonds of friendship. In this regard, the SAN is no exception, and in the past 80 years, 53 SAN ships acted as highly successful grey diplomats for South Africa in at least 86 flag-showing cruises in peace time.

SAS Drakensberg

What follows is an overview of the 86 foreign flag-showing cruises that were undertaken for the period from 1 April 1922 to 1 April 2002 by South African warships and submarines. The aim is not to supply an in-depth analysis of each separate cruise, but to determine the general nature, scope and value of the SAN's diplomatic role. Nine phases are identified, and in conclusion, general tendencies are indicated and conclusions drawn, given the new era in the history of the Navy that is about to commence with the commissioning of new frigates and submarines.

Phase 1: The South African Naval Service, 1922-1934

The history of the South African Navy dates back to 1 April 1922 when the South African Naval Service (SANS) was founded. The SANS's first (and only) ships were the former Royal Navy ships HMS Crozier (a "Hunt" Class minesweeper that was converted into a hydrographic survey ship, and later renamed HMSAS Protea, as well as HMS Foyle and Eden ("Mersey" Class minesweeping trawlers that were later renamed HMSAS Sonneblom and Immortelle respectively). The three ships left Plymouth in England on 28 November 1921, and dropped anchor in Simon's Bay on 11 January 1922. On their way to South Africa, they visited Gibraltar, Las Palmas, Sierra Leone, Lagos, Luanda and Walvis Bay; however, as they were not yet official South African warships, this particular sea voyage is not regarded as a South African flag-showing cruise.

As far as could be determined, the SANS undertook only one foreign flag-showing cruise, namely, when HMSAS Sonneblom and Immortelle visited Lourenço Marques (the present Maputo) in Portuguese East Africa (the present Mozambique) in July 1929. The great world depression (1929-1935) also had a negative influence on the Union of South Africa, and led to the deterioration of the SANS. As a result of financial considerations, HMSAS Protea was decommissioned in 1933, and the other two ships in 1934.

Phase 2: No Flag-Showing Cruises, 1935-1939

With no naval ships at their disposal, the SANS could not play any diplomatic role. With as few as five permanent officers, twelve seamen and ten civilian administrative personnel, the SANS was merely a naval force in name. The seaward defence of the Union of South Africa was performed by the Royal Navy, with the Simon's Town Naval Base as their most important base in the southern hemisphere. However, the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 caused a dramatic change in South Africa's naval position.

Phase 3: South Africa and the Second World War, 1940-1945

In the same way that the Union Defence Forces' (UDF's) land and air forces underwent a dramatic transformation from September 1939 onwards, the naval forces were also extended. German submarines and surface raiders posed a threat to the strategic Cape sea route, and a total of 156 Allied ships were sunk within a radius of 1 000 nautical miles (1852 km) from the South African coast. Fishing-trawlers and whaling ships were converted locally into minesweepers and submarine hunters. By the end of 1939, fifteen of these small vessels were in the service of the Seaward Defence Force (which formally took the place of the SANF on 15 January 1940). On 1 August 1942, the Seaward Defence Force and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (South Africa) were merged to form the South African Naval Forces. By the end of the war, a total of 1 436 officers and 8 896 other sailors were in the service of South Africa's naval forces, of whom 338 died while on active service; and a total of 89 vessels were involved in active service at some or other time, including three frigates, twenty small anti-submarine vessels, 45 small minesweepers, and eleven harbour defence motor launches.

Although the overwhelming majority of South African naval operations took place in the territorial waters off the Union's coast, some South African ships saw service in other operational areas. Traditionally, war-time maritime operations are not associated with diplomatic maritime actions. However, for purposes of this study, the visits that South African warships paid to other parts of the world are nonetheless regarded as a form of flag-showing event. This was indeed the first time since 1929 that South African warships visited other countries' ports, and it was the very first time that harbours in North Africa and Europe, as well as the Central and the Far East were visited. Although these visits occurred under operational conditions, the South African flag was indeed displayed. However, since the visits did not form part of formal flag-showing cruises, we only provide a broad overview of the visits, and these visits are also not linked to identifiable individual flag-showing cruises - for this reason, the visits from 1940 to 1945 also do not form part of the formally counted flag-showing cruises from 1922 to 2002 (or rather, 1922 to 1934, and 1946 to 2002).

In December 1940, four South African anti-submarine vessels were sent to the Mediterranean Sea. On 11 January 1941, they arrived in Alexandria (Egypt), from where they initially were involved in operations. Later, Tobruk (Libya) became their base, and on 11 February 1941, HMSAS Southern Floe was blown up by a mine close to this harbour - only one survivor was found. HMSAS Protea was sent as substitute to the Mediterranean Sea. In November 1941, eight small minesweepers were also dispatched to the Mediterranean Sea, and of these, three were sunk: HMSAS Parktown, Bever and Treern. Ports visited by South African ships included Sollum (Egypt), Beirut (Lebanon), Famagusta (Cyprus), Gibraltar, Port Said (Egypt), several Greek islands, Taranto (Italy), Brindisi (Italy), Preveza (Albania), Gemeniysa (Albania), and Haifa (Palestine, the present-day Israel). Two other small South African vessels (under the operational command of the Royal Navy) visited Mauritius, Madagascar, the Seychelles and Kenya. Furthermore, the salvage ship HMSAS Gamtoos left Durban on 19 November 1942, sailing via Mombasa (Kenya), Aden (Yemen) and Port Said (Egypt) to the Mediterranean Sea - where, among others, they visited the following ports to perform salvage operations: Port Said, Alexandria, Benghazi (Libya), Tripoli (Libya), Tobruk, Algiers (Algeria), Naples (Italy), Marseilles (France), La Ciotat (France), Ajaccio (Corsica), Valetta (Malta) and Genoa (Italy), and then embarked on its return voyage via Mombasa to Durban.

Meanwhile, South Africa had for the first time secured significant warships, namely, the "Loch" Class frigates HMSAS Good Hope (December 1944), Natal (March 1945) and Transvaal (May 1945). The first two ships visited several ports in the British Isles and France - and the Natal sank the German submarine U-714. The Good Hope and the Natal sailed via Freetown (Sierra Leone) and Saldanha Bay to Cape Town (June 1945), while the Transvaal arrived in Cape Town approximately a month later. Meanwhile, the war against Japan continued unabated. In February 1945, the boom defence vessel HMSAS Barbrake (later SAS Fleur) embarked on a cruise to Trincomalee in Ceylon (known today as Sri Lanka), later visiting Madras (India), Colombo (Ceylon) and Akyalo and Rangoon (both in Burma, known today as Myanmar) before returning to South Africa in January 1946. Shortly before the end of the war, HMSAS Natal departed for the East, visiting Diego Suarez (Madagascar), Colombo, Port Swettenham (Malaysia), Singapore and Mauritius before the ship returned to Durban on 30 November 1945. During and directly after the Second World War, South African warships did indeed display the South African flag in various parts of the world.

Phase 4: Normal Diplomatic Relations, 1946-1960

On conclusion of the Second World War, all the components of the Union Defence Forces (UDF) were scaled down dramatically. At the start of the 1946, the South African Naval Forces (SANF) had only three frigates, one mine-laying vessel, eleven harbour defence motor launches and two boom defence vessels. On 1 May 1946, the SANF were reconstituted as a permanent component of the UDF, and from 1 January 1951, the SANF became known as the South African Navy (SAN). From 20 June 1952, the prefix HMSAS was replaced by SAS - this was consistent with the policy to make South Africa less and less dependent on Britain.

In 1947, the SANF acquired three additional ships: the "Algerine" Class fleet minesweepers HMSAS Rosamund (later renamed HMSAS Bloemfontein), HMSAS Pelorus (later renamed HMSAS Pietermaritzburg), and the "Flower" Class corvette HMSAS Rockrose (later converted into a hydrographic survey ship and renamed HMSAS Protea). Although delivery cruises are not primary flag-showing cruises, these types of cruises are pre-eminently suited for diplomatic purposes. The above-mentioned ships left Britain under the South African flag on 22 November 1947, sailing to Cape Town (arriving on 24 December 1947) via Gibraltar (a British territory), Freetown (in Sierra Leone, at the time also a British colony), and Walvis Bay (until 1994 a South African territory).

In March 1948, the SANF secured an own base at Salisbury Island in Durban. In August and September 1948, the SANDF embarked on its first flag-showing cruise from its new base, when all three the "Loch" Class frigates visited Mocãmedes (known today as Namibe), Lobito and Luanda in Angola (until 1975 a Portuguese colony) and Matadi in the Belgian Congo (later to become Zaïre and known today as the Democratic Republic of the Congo). In November and December 1948, the frigate HMSAS Natal and the two fleet minesweepers visited Lourenço Marques, Inhambane and Beira in Mozambique.

On 26 December 1950, the frigate HMSAS Transvaal left Durban, and embarked on a voyage to Fremantle (Australia) via Amsterdam Island (which is still a French territory today). From Fremantle, the frigate sailed to Sydney to participate in the festivities commemorating the 50th anniversary of Australia as a unitary state. Then, the Transvaal returned to South Africa, sailing via Jervis Bay, Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle to Durban (4 March 1951). On 24 August 1952, the SAN's first destroyer, SAS Jan van Riebeeck (the former British "Wager" Class HMS Wessex was transferred to South Africa on 29 March 1950), and SAS Transvaal and Bloemfontein left Durban for a visit to Diego Suarez (Madagascar - at the time still a French colony), Mombasa (Kenya, at the time still a British colony) and Dar es Salaam (at the time still the British colony Tanganyika, known today as Tanzania). The ships were back in the Durban harbour on 13 September.

The SAN's second destroyer, SAS Simon van der Stel (the former HMS Whelp, and a sister-ship of the Jan van Riebeeck, was handed over to the Navy on 23 February 1953. On 14 July 1954, the Simon van der Stel left Durban harbour on what was the longest flag-showing cruise ever by an SAN warship. The warship sailed via Cape Town, Walvis Bay, Freetown and Dakar (Senegal - at the time still a French colony) to Portsmouth in England (31 July), where the ship remained for approximately two weeks. Then, the Simon van der Stel became the first SAN ship to visit the Netherlands, when the warship berthed in Rotterdam. From there, the ship returned to Portsmouth and then sailed to Derry (Londonderry, Northern Ireland), Glasgow (Scotland) and once again returned to Portsmouth. On 21 October, the return cruise to South Africa was undertaken, together with SAS Gelderland (the former HMS Brayford, the new "Ford" Class seaward defence boat, which it escorted. On their way to Durban, the ships visited Brest (France), Lisbon (Portugal), Las Palmas (Canary Islands - a Spanish territory), Dakar, Abidjan (in the former French West Africa; today located in the Côte d'Ivoire - in other words, the Ivory Coast), Pointe Noire (the former French Equatorial Africa; today located in the Republic of the Congo), Walvis Bay, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. This successful cruise of 147 days ended on 8 December 1954.

SAS Simon van der Stel in Rotterdam during her visit to the Netherlands. She was the first South African warship to visit that country.

At the end of July 1955, SAS Good Hope (at that stage the SAN's flagship) and SAS Transvaal undertook a diplomatic cruise to Madagascar, including visits to Nossi Bé, Diego Suarez and Tamatava (known today as Taomasina). On board the flagship was His Excellency Dr E.G. Jansen (South Africa's governor-general) and his wife, Mabel. This was the first (and thus far the last) time that a South African head of state sailed on board a South African warship to another country. Meanwhile, negotiations were taking place between the governments of South Africa and Britain on the future of the Royal Navy's base at Simon's Town. The outcome of these talks was that the base was transferred to the Union on 2 April 1957 in terms of the Simon's Town Agreement, and that the SAN would purchase four additional frigates, ten coastal minesweepers and five seaward defence boats (including SAS Gelderland, which has already been referred to) from Britain.

The new "Ton" Class coastal minesweepers and additional "Ford" Class seaward defence boats sailed to South Africa in groups, without additional larger escorting ships. The minesweepers SAS Kaapstad (the former HMS Hazleton) and SAS Pretoria (HMS Dunkerton) and the seaward defence boat SAS Nautilus (HMS Glassford) left Portsmouth on 4 October 1955 and sailed via Lisbon, Las Palmas, Dakar, Abidjan, Pointe Noire, Walvis Bay, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London to Durban (22 November). The next flotilla of minesweepers that sailed to South Africa were SAS Durban and Windhoek. The voyage took them from Portsmouth (12 May 1958), via Lisbon, Las Palmas, Dakar, Abidjan, Pointe Noire, Lobito and Walvis Bay to Simon's Town (13 June). After this, the minesweepers SAS East London (HMS Chilton) and SAS Port Elizabeth (HMS Dumbleton), together with the seaward defence boat SAS Rijger, left in November 1958, visiting the same harbours (excluding Abidjan) as the latter group, and reached Simon's Town on 21 December. The next group consisted of the minesweepers SAS Johannesburg (HMS Castleton) and SAS Kimberley (HMS Stratton) and the seaward defence boat SAS Haerlem, which left Portsmouth on 14 July 1959, and visited the same harbours on the way to Simon's Town (21 August) as the May-June 1958 squadron, followed by the last flotilla, comprising the minesweepers SAS Mossel Bay (HMS Oakington) and SAS Walvisbaai (HMS Packington) and the seaward defence boat SAS Oosterland. They left Portsmouth on 30 October 1959, visiting the same harbours as their predecessors (excluding Lobito) on their way to Simon's Town (where they arrived on 5 December 1959).

March 12th - On This Date - USN Submarine Service

 1910 - 
 PCU SALMON (later D-3) (SS-19) launched at Fore River Shipbuilding Company, Quincy, MA.

1920 - 
USS H-1 (ex-SEAWOLF) (SS-28) lost with 4 men (including the commanding officer, Lt. Comdr. James R. Webb) after running aground at the entrance to Magdalena Bay, Mexico (off Santa Margarita Island) and sinking in 9 fathoms of water while being towed off. Salvage was abandoned.

1936 - 
PCU TARPON (SS-175) commissioned USS TARPON (SS-175) at Electric Boat Company, Groton, CT.

1943 - 
PCU SANDLANCE (SS-381) keel laid as SANDLANCE at Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, ME.

1944 - PCU BLACKFIN (SS-322) launched at Electric Boat Company, Groton, CT

1944 -
PCU JALLAO (SS-368) launched at Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company, Manitowoc, WI.

1945 - 
 Ex-BASS (ex-V2/SF-5) (SS-164) scuttled as a sonar target southeast of Block Island in 155' of water.

1971 - 
PCU BILLFISH (SSN-676) commissioned USS BILLFISH (SSN-676) at the Electric Boat Division, General Dynamics Corporation, Groton, CT.

1998 - 
 USS OHIO (BLUE) (SSBN-726) manuevered through Hood Canal Bridge as she returned to her homeport in Bangor, WA. Ohio was the first Trident submarine to tally 50 strategic patrols.

2004 -  
PCU VIRGINIA (SSN-774) successfully completed a test of her torpedo tubes at General Dynamics Electric Boat Division's shipyard, Groton, CT, firing a dozen dummy torpedoes into the Thames River. The two-day evolution brought the submarine, the first in a new class of fast-attack boats, closer to her sea trials, which were slated for the spring.

To conduct the torpedo tube testing, Electric Boat and U.S. Navy personnel fired three of the dummy torpedoes, or “shapes,” from each of the submarine’s four tubes.

VIRGINIA Prospective Commanding Officer Capt. Dave Kern, who stood dockside for the firing of the first shape, said the test was a big step forward for the submarine. “The whole reason for the ship’s existence is for us to be able to use the weapon systems if called upon,” he said. “So it’s a great milestone to see the torpedo tubes in action.”

In addition to torpedoes, the Virginia-class will be armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles and has been designed to host the Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) and Dry-Deck Shelter to support various missions. Furthermore, the Virginia-class will dominate both the open ocean and littorals while undertaking a wide range of missions, including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, special operations, Information, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), and mine warfare.

The Virginia class is built jointly by General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, CT., and Northrop Grumman Newport News in Newport News, VA. VIRGINIA’s commissioning was scheduled for later that year at Norfolk Naval Base, VA.


March 12th - On This Date - RN Submarine Service

1915 G10 Submarine HMS G10 laid down
1918 H28 Submarine HMS H28 launched
1918 L8 Submarine HMS L8 completed
1936 Sea Wolf Submarine HMS Sea Wolf completed
1914 HMS A7 Burial held at sea.
1917 HMS E49 On leaving Balta Sound for patrol, E49 hit a mine laid by UC76 on the 10th, off the entrance. There were no survivors. She lies in 16 fathoms with bows blown off.
1918 HMS D3 D3 was sunk in error in Channel by a French airship

D3 left Gosport on 7th March 1918 for an anti-submarine patrol in the English Channel. Little is known of her patrol movements but it is believed that a submarine spotted by a Royal Naval Air Service airship on the 11th was D3. On the 12th March the French airship AT-0 was patrolling when at 1420 a vessel was spotted to her north east. The airship drew close for recognition purposes and according to her commander, the submarine fired rockets at her. Four 52-kilo bombs were dropped by the airship. The submarine disappeared but several minutes later men were seen in the water. Attempts were made by the airship to rescue the men but it proved too difficult. The airship withdrew to seek help but all the men had drowned by the time it arrived. It is clear that D3 was the victim of a serious identification error on the part of the French airship, with identification rockets being mistaken for aggressive gunfire.
1943 HMS Thunderbolt Torpedoed the Italian merchant ship Esterel two miles north of Capo San Vito.
1943 HMS Unruly HMS Unruly torpedoes and sinks the French merchant St Lucien off Port Vendres, southern France.
1944 HMS Storm HMS Storm sinks a small Japanese vessel with gunfire in the Malacca Strait.

NATO - Is NATO luring Russia into summit trap?

Washington’s election-year offer to share with Russia data on a US-built European missile defense system will likely fail to address Moscow’s objections to the project, a Russian security expert says.

Vladimir Kozin, a senior researcher at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies (RISI), said Moscow’s lack of full membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) precludes the military bloc from data-sharing sensitive information with Russia.

"I doubt that the offer of the US Defense Department, which has been voiced in general terms, will materialize since Russia is not a member of the trans-Atlantic alliance,” Kozin said. “US legislation prohibits the sharing of technological secrets with countries that are not…100-percent military and political allies, and countries with which there are no plans for joint combat operation on a global scale."

Russia has warned the US and NATO on many occasions that the construction of a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, without Russia’s cooperation, will be viewed as a potential threat to its national security.

Earlier, Bradley Roberts, US Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary, told a congressional meeting that Washington was willing to share with Russia “secret data” on the planned missile shield in a bid to break the deadlock in Russian-American talks on the controversial project.

Kozin doubted the sincerity of the invitation due to its unofficial delivery.

"Offers of this kind, if they really are a serious invitation, would only be made in official form and not through the media or through public statements," noted the researcher, who also serves as liaison between the Kremlin and NATO on the missile defense project.

According to Kozin, the best explanation for Washington’s statement on date sharing is the upcoming NATO Summit, scheduled for May 21-22 in Chicago. 

He said the goal of Roberts' statement was "to lure Russian representatives” to the summit, where a Russia-NATO summit could be held on the sidelines.

At such a meeting, however, "Moscow is unlikely to be offered anything of substance on the missile defense issue," Kozin said.

It would hardly make any sense for Russian representatives to be present at such a venue he said, while adding that the Pentagon's initiative fails to address the main obstacle, which is the creation of a "cooperative" NATO-Russian missile defense shield in Europe, he said.

Some political analysts have suggested that President Obama, who will be looking to win another four years in the White House in November elections, may be looking to lure Russian representatives to the NATO Summit with the goal of refusing Moscow cooperation on the system.

“This could be an election-year move by Obama to silence Republican claims that the American president is going soft on the Russians,” said a senior-ranking defense industry consultant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to his proximity to the talks. “It seems unlikely that any game-changing offers will be made to the Russians in Chicago.” 

China - Chinese ‘Mighty Dragon’ doomed to breathe Russian fire

While Beijing is proudly leaking more images of J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, China continues to buy Russian military jet engines and spare parts, which might indicate China is in a technological deadlock.

­China is making an attempt to catch up with world leaders and develop hi-tech vehicles in the absence of crucial military know-how and technology, like engines for ultrasonic cruise flights and active phased array antennas.

“As of now, it is too early to say that China is capable of creating a fifth-generation jet from start to finish,” told RT Vasily Kashin from the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.
Chinese 5th-gen fighter jet

The Chinese J-20 (Mighty Dragon) fith-generation fighter jet program is advancing in truly huge strides. The jet has already made over 60 test flights, performing elements of aerial acrobatics.

In 2009, General He Weirong, Deputy Commander of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force estimated that the J-20 would be operational no earlier than in 2017-2019. Now it appears Chinese engineers have done a great job and the jet is much closer to being ready than expected.

Created by Chengdu Aircraft Corporation, this heavy fighter jet is the first military plane China has constructed on its own, without visible attempts at copying foreign technology. It resembles neither the American Raptor F-22, nor the Russian T-50 PAK-FA.
Though peculiar forms of the jet and technical decisions allegedly realized in the vehicle might be questionable, one thing about this plane is an established fact.

As of now, the J-20 flies with two Russian AL-31F jet engines it borrowed from the Russian Su-27 fighter jet that entered Chinese service in the mid-1980s.

China also tried to put engines of their own on a second test J-20 vehicle, but the copycat of the Soviet engine AL-31F made by China is not in the same league as the Russian analogue for reliability and durability.

The real problem is both AL-31F and Chinese version are engines of the previous generation.

No question the Chinese jet is a prototype model and technology demonstration vehicle called to test new equipment and technology. Defined as a technology showroom, it may fly whatever engines its creator considers possible. But China has no working engine for a 5G jet.

Despite the fact that China tries to sell clones of the Russian jets at discount prices on the international arms market ($10 million for a J-11, while the Russian original Su-27 is well over $30 million), China continues to buy Russian engines and certain parts of these engines in quantities that far exceed the necessity to do routine maintenance of the Russian planes they use.

Chinese dependence on Russian engines can only be explained by technological inferiority of Chinese engine-building.

Beijing has found itself in a position when getting a decent 5G fighter jets with complying engines means buying engines in Russia, because no other country will sell them anything similar.

­This week, news came that Moscow and Beijing are close to striking a deal on China buying 48 Su-35 multifunctional fighter jets for $4 billion. The main reason for this remarkable purchase could be Russia’s jet engines.

The Su-35 flies with two next generation AL-41F1C engines that enable it to achieve hypersonic speed without afterburner, a feature attributed to 5G jets. And AL-41F1C actually is a de-rated version of the AL-41F1 (117C) engine used on the undergoing tests T-50 PAK-FA, Russian 5G fighter jet.

In 2010, when Russia’s Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov was on visit to China, Beijing proposed to buy 117C engines, but the offer was turned down.

Russians agreed to sell only assembled planes and in addition insist on signing a special anti-copycat agreement, designed to prevent the Chinese from copying the vehicle and its parts, as has happened before.

This demand has become a stumbling block in the negotiations. After the news about the deal emerged, the Chinese Ministry of Defense rushed to deny that negotiations on Su-35 with Moscow are in the terminal stage.

“Actually, any negotiations with China always come to the following: they try to buy a small lot [of arms] for examination and possible further replication. Naturally, Russia is aware of such risks and refuse to sell arms in small quantities,” said Vasily Kashin, explaining China’s canny moves to obtain missing technology.

Russia has great doubts concerning the practicability of selling AL-41F1C engines to Beijing without the special replication clause. This does not suit China because in the end they need technology to organize a production line for such engines of their own.

China’s copycat efforts

For many years China has been the biggest buyer of Russian military planes. Overall it has bought 178 fighter jets of only Su-27/Su-30 family – until producing a successful copycat of it, named J-11.

They also replicated Russian deck-based fighter Su-33 (J-15), Su-27 fighter jet (J-10), Su-30 (J-11), MiG-29 (FC-1).
Chinese dragon with Russian engines

Kashin predicts that after long negotiations Moscow and Beijing will finally strike a separate jet engine deal and Russia will supply engines for the J-20 program, the way it already supplies engines to all four major types of Chinese fighter jets which are actually copycats of Soviet-made planes.

“Buying the Su-35 to dismantle its engines to put on J-20 would be madly expensive for the Chinese,” said Kashin.

“The J-20 is a very technically-risky project because there is no guarantee that Chinese will be capable to put into shape by 2017 several systems they are developing for the project, including special munitions and an active phased array antenna of they own in-house design,” Kashin told RT.

The J-20s will most likely fly with Russian engines for years before they make a reliable engine of their own, Kashin said.

The expert also pointed out that while the Chinese stated earlier they attempted to make a jet with the characteristics of an American F-22, they more likely are now working not on a fighter, but a stealth assault jet.

The J-20 will presumably be capable of piercing an enemy’s air defense to strike an important target – something like an aircraft carrier, as could be seen in J-20 “Attack on all fronts” advertising clip.