Thursday, October 25, 2007

US Investigates Chinese Helicopter Engines

Canadian-made engines have been used in China's first domestically developed attack helicopter, according to a 23 October 2007 Reuters story. The PT6 engine was developed over 40 years ago. United Technologies Corp in Canada said that the engines were sold to be used on the civilian version of the aircraft, with a Chinese version to be used in the military helicopters. The Chinese claimed delays in developing their own engine caused the Canadian-built units to be used.


Byron said...

Pratt&Whitney Canada delivered 10 engines to the Chinese according to the Reuter's story.

If that is, in fact, the total number of engines the Chinese have for their Chinese developed attack helicopter then they don't even have enough flying to adequately test the darned thing and they might just have put themselves into a position where the development and testing of the platform will be delayed.

Ask an aerospace engineer, test flight of the attack helicopter with one engine will develop a flight manual. For that airframe with that engine. If the Chinese can't get more of the same engines and have to use another engine, then they have to go through the entire testflight routine with the new engine.

Byron said...

There's another implication here that can be seen throughout both Chinese and Russian technology. The Canadian PT6 engine was designed over FORTY years ago. Apparently current Chinese technology is not up to the task of equaling an engine designed in the West four decades ago. That's a big darn gap.

You might see an electronic device assembled in China. But the semiconductor chips were imported. Why? Because China can't make one. Neither can Russia. So, what does that mean? It means their electronics are fundamentally less capable than Western electronics made before you were born.

Which basically is why the Soviet Union lost the space race. Their computers were all on the ground. Soyuz doesn't have indigenously produced onboard computers today.

Go back and look at Gulf War I. Iraq's weapon systems at the time were state of the art Soviet systems and plenty of them. The western forces walked all over them. Granted, the people operating the systems weren't up to the standards of the Russians or the Chinese but even that could not have made up for the fundamental lack of capabilities of the weapons systems.

This Chinese helicopter is considered to be the equivalent in combat power to the Eurocopter Tiger...with the PT6 engine. And not as good as the AH-64 Apache. The first production Apache rolled off the assembly line in 1983.

So the state of the art 2007 Chinese attack helicopter lacks the capability of a US helicopter that has been in use for a quarter of a century. That's a darned big lag to overcome.

Stalin said that quantity has a quality all its own. That's true.
As far as it goes. Based on confrontations between Soviet era military technology and western military technology to doesn't go far enough.

J.R.Shirley said...

No argument, in general. The investigation is about using this purchased from a close ally, from a US company, engine in a military vehicle of a potential adversary (though major trading partner!).

Yes, I agree with your analysis regarding PRC technology and weapons systems. Another thing you probably aren't aware of, is my former great interest in, and study of, military aircraft. The J-10 aircraft ( seems to put the PRC about 30 years behind the US in a/c development.

Byron said...


If they can't reverse engineer a forty year old helicopter engineer, they're probably further than thirty years behind.

The inability to design and manufacture dedicated milspec semiconductor chips is going to be a major bottleneck in achieving the apparent goal of becoming a world power.

Fourth largest economy in the world. Barely edging out Britain. Britain can't afford the military to be a dominant world power. Now the Chinese population doesn't take as large a percentage of GDP to maintain its standard of living as the British do, but, still, the Chinese population is restless under the present regime. There is a limit to how much the regime can limit butter to the masses in order to buy guns.

I won't be buying any Taiwanese stocks or bonds by any means. If I were Australian or Japanese, I'd definitely be in favor of a massive defense buildup. But it is going to require more than development for China to become a world power militarily. It's going to take production. They aren't going to do it in my lifetime. They might manage it in yours. Might.

They also might let a crisis get out of control and use one of their pathetic inventory of ICBM's and cease to exist.

I hope their intelligence services are efficient...and honest with their political hierarchy. If they get in a situation such as Saddam apparently placed himself in... It's going to be a hot time in China. (Apparently, Saddam thought Iraq had much more military capability than was, in fact, the case. His subordinates were so terrified of him that they lied to him.)