Hugo And His New Chinese Combat Planes

Posted on Tue 09/23/2008 by

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As you read the first part of this, plant your tongue firmly into the inside of your cheek.

Two days ago amidst all the news of the financial trauma and the political news, a small story came out that will strike fear into the heart of every American.

The bold headline said:

‘Venezuela to buy Chinese combat planes: Chavez.’

This is a really worrying thing, and so that we know what we will be prospectively facing, let’s familiarise ourselves with these weapons of death.

Karakorum K-8 Commons image. Click on image to open in a larger window.

The aircraft is the Hongdu JL-8, and this version is designated as the K-8, the K standing for Karakorum, which is the mountain range separating China from Pakistan, as this aircraft is joint project between those two Countries. The aircraft was designed by a Chinese aircraft designer, and the prototype included components familiar with most small civilian jet aircraft, the majority sourced from the US. The original engine was a small Honeywell turbofan, originally designed in 1972 by the Garrett Company, and in common use in most of the small business jets, like the Cessna Citation, and the Learjets. The avionics and electronics were all US design. The ejection seats were from the English Martin Baker Company. Now, because Western Countries have embargoed US manufacturers from supplying equipment for military purposes, the Chinese just did what they do best. They just copied the lot. So now, this little Trainer aircraft now has all componentry manufactured in China, and in Pakistan.

That close friend of the US, Hugo Chavez now adds these ‘state of the art’ combat aircraft to his already impressive arsenal of an air force he now has at his disposal. As to the designation combat aircraft, well that might be a stretch indeed. They have one small 23mm Cannon with maybe a hundred rounds at best, and the pylons under the wing maybe could carry one 500 pound bomb. They also might be able to mount one air to air missile like a Sidewinder, but that might also be a bit of a stretch as the electronics do not really extend to retrofitting the wiring and delivery capability for this. So when you think ‘combat’ aircraft, this might not be in that thinking. The range is okay I guess, because the engines are fairly good on consumption rate, so if they flew at their cruising speed of say, 400 knots, they might be able to make it to Florida, but they won’t be able to get back home again.

So, when you read how Hugo has got some nice new combat planes from China, take it with a mighty big grain of salt.

These are Trainers, pure and simple.

As to his other vast air force arsenal, let’s look at that then, shall we.

In those days before Hugo realised that he could use his vast oil deposits as a bargaining chip, and he was still on talking terms with Washington, he got some F16’s for his fledgling air force, back in the days when the F16 was state of the art. Now that he’s not friendly with the US, those F16’s, the originals supplied in 1983, so these would be so far out of date now as to be considered not in the front rank of fighters. These F16’s were the base model, and now that the US has embargoed military hardware to Venezuela, these F16’s have fallen so far into disrepair, that of the original 21 supplied, only 10 of them can actually make it into the air, and parts are so rare, that they have to cannibalise the others to even keep those 10 airborne.

Hugo however does have some of those fine Russian Fighters, the Sukhoi SU 30, the second variant of this model. However when reading this, something needs to be taken into account. As fine as these third generation Fighters might be, the Russians are absolutely paranoid when it comes to supplying their aircraft to foreign powers. All the ‘good stuff’ they may, (or may not) have on their own aircraft are not ever included on the ones supplied to foreign powers because they worry that they might fall into US hands and they might then work out how best to counter their so called good stuff, not that the US need worry. Their good stuff is a quantum level better than anything the Russians might have. Also Russia has a thing about supplying aircraft to foreign powers, but not much more in the way of spares and equipment to actually keep them operational for extended periods of time.

However, there is one worrying thing about all this. Part of the deal to supply these aircraft obviously included access to their airspace, and they have already taken advantage of that deal, flying into that airspace with some of their long range bombers. I feel sure that Hugo, at his magnanimous best might also have offered the Russians access to his air force bases, but in the same breath, I also feel that the Russians would have thanked him profusely for that offer, but their long range bombers might best be deployed airborne and not really need to land there in Venezuela.

This new deal with the Chinese also seems to be pretty transparent in that the Chinese are also contributing towards a bilateral fund, throwing $4 Billion into the pot that Hugo says will be used for quote, “socialist productive projects” unquote.

That was nice of the Chinese. I don’t suppose it would have anything to do with the fact that China is getting half a million barrels of oil a day, which is expected to increase to one million barrels a day by 2012.

So, when you read how Hugo Chavez has just picked up 24 nice and shiny new combat aircraft from China, look at it with some context.