For a change, New Delhi under the new dynamic Political Leadership has been keeping a sharp watch on the Checker game played by China and at the same time has initiated its own Lutyens Ludo game. Therefore the fly past of J 20 Fighter Aircraft at Zhuhai Airshow has been noted and acknowledged as tremendous progress by China in the field of Aviation but nothing to cause panic.

Air Show China – China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition, has been successfully held biennially since 1996 in Zhuhai, China. This year the 11th Airshow China was held from 01 Nov 2016 to 06 Nov 2016, show casing Transportation, Railway, Shipping, Aviation, Airport Construction and Aerospace.

Two J 20 Fighters opened the Show with a very brief 60 second fly past. These aircrafts , look alike of  American F 35,  were flying in public for the first time. Thus the biggest meeting of aircraft makers and buyers was opened with show of military clout. This aircraft was first glimpsed in 2010 while undergoing taxing trials and had its maiden  test flight  on 11 Jan 2011. As usual, some Europeans and a few Americans Experts on China went ga ga. Soon it was touted as better than even F22 in stealth and other features and capabilities. However at the current airshow, the two aircrafts neither performed a complete flying routine nor any manuevres. It just did a very brief high speed fly past thus disappointing all the spectators. Though many experts opined that it was a big step forward in China’s combat capability, many others felt that it was too early to say if the aircraft matches F22. It now also has an export version under development named J 31, which was unveiled in 2014 and is eagerly awaited by Pakistan.

Presently there are probably 10 prototypes of this aircraft which are being used for development and refining. Hence it is unlikely that J 20 will be entering PLAAF before 2020 and thereafter it will take a few more years for proper Squadron Service. Thus India has to take note of this development but there is nothing to panic about. As already initiated by the present Govt, the process of manufacturing the TEJAS needs to be fast tracked, so as to have enough TEJAS in Squadron service at the earliest possible. Also HAL must move towards MK 2 version with the fastest possible speed …no more lethargy. There is also a need to add around three more squadrons of SUKHOI MKIs   so as to have 18 full Squadrons in service by 2021. Soon thereafter IAF should be getting the first of the FGFAs. Hence with these aircrafts in addition to the 03 squadrons of RAFAEL things will be under control. Of course any time under the LUDO move, our Govt can start the MAKE IN INDIA of additional French RAFAELS or a Russian SUKHOI 35 to give more leeway to the IAF.

Now what has been noted at the Airshow by India was beyond the roar of the J20 jets in a non-descript pavilion of Aero Engine Corporation of China, on public display for the first time. This Corporation, a union of around 20 firms and staff of 1lakh, was launched in August this year with seed money of around 7.5 billion US dollars from the State Council. The aim of this entity is to build and develop homegrown, high tech product also fit for export. Presently on display were engine mock ups and gas turbines whose designs date back to 2000 or before. Though there was no new technology on display, it was stark clear that China is now determined to remove its dependency on foreign designed aero engines. After all its showcase J20 had thundered above with the Russian AL31 Engine. China has made great strides in high speed rail and nuclear technology by various methods, by buying technologies, cloning and even reverse engineering process .However it has found it more difficult to break into the secretive engine sector whose technology is heavily guarded by the original equipment manufacturers. However with support of the Chinese Govt, Chinese Universities, Chinese Industry and The PLA, PLAAF and PLAN, in about 10 years China will have the latest engine technology and an engine flying.

The above is definitely a cause of concern for India. Presently India is also fully dependent on foreign engines therefore our Govt must immediately take action to ensure that to catch up and match up with China, the Indian KAVERI too becomes a flying engine within next 5 years’ time, to power TEJAS MK 3 with single engine and to power our AMCA with twin engines. Then there will be nothing to fear but for both the Dragon and the Elephant to play Checkers and Ludo together.

Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Veteran