It is evident, based on recent news and talks with mil/aero industry vendors, that an ever-increasing number of U.S. owned and operated businesses are selling mechanical, electrical, and electronic components and systems to key Chinese corporations for use in commercial aircraft.
BBC News has reported that some of the biggest names in aerospace—General Electric, Honeywell, and Rockwell Collins, to name a few—are actively seeking (and perhaps delivering on) contracts with key Chinese aerospace companies and aircraft manufacturers. Such contracts doubtless help the U.S. economy—increasing sales, revenues, and profits and, of course, keeping Americans employed. Will these short-term benefits have long-term costs, however?
One mil/aero vendor with whom I spoke this month mentioned that International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) aren’t an issue, the regulations don’t apply to parts and components being employed in commercial aircraft in China. If that is true, it is more than a little concerning.
In February 2010, China debuted its first China-made commercial airplane, as well as its first amphibious plane. Two months later, in April 2010, China unveiled four Chinese-made “shock and awe” jetfighters. Offering high maneuverability and low cost, the aircraft are being adopted by China’s air force and being marketed to military organizations all over the world. In fact, China not only sells aircraft to Pakistan, but also partners with Pakistan on aerospace developments.
It was revealed this month that China and Pakistan are collaborating to launch a space communications satellite next year, and the two countries signed an agreement to build two nuclear reactors (specifically, 300MWe Pressurized Water Reactors). Further, at the Farnborough International Airshow in July, China and Pakistan marketed their jointly developed Chengdu JF-17 Thunder multi-role, combat aircraft. The China-Pakistan joint venture is targeting the new jetfighter at a long list of potential customers, including Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Congo, Egypt, Iran, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkey, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. It is also being reported that the two countries are keeping aircraft prices and manufacturing costs low by soliciting components and systems from virtually all areas of the globe; the JF-17’s turbofan is said to come from a Russian supplier, in fact.
Are parts/components, systems, and technologies acquired for China’s commercial aircraft helping fuel (or even directly fueling) advances in military aircraft? This geek knows one thing is for certain, China is a growing force in aerospace—both commercial and military.