Zhuhai International Airshow 2018 (1)

Static display of PLAAF and PLAN heavies including ZJ-500 AEW aircraft , H6k bomber and Y20 transports





Zhuhai International Airshow (珠海航展) is held once every 2 years in the southern province of Guangdong, China. The 6 day airshow started on Nov 5th to 11th hosting 5 days of trade show and the last 2 days were open to public. They host over 140 aircraft’s mostly of Chinese origin. 2018 marked a very low key show as compared to the past whereby foreign military and aerobatic teams like the Royal Air force Red Arrows and Russian Knights and Sukhoi SU-35 made their performance and display in the sky of Zhuhai. This year no foreign participation except for Pakistani Air force FC-1 tactical demonstration team.  According to other sources,  said the trade war with the United States and the lack of funding in the aftermath of the nationwide anti-corruption campaign driven by President Xi Jinping’s on the Chinese military overhaul forced organizers to cut cost and have a more ” low key” airshow for 2018.  This low key leads to a total lack of any Chinese Military display whereby no flying or static of any sukhoi type fighters like the J-11B, J15 or SU-35 fighters and non of the IL-76 transports or AEW aircraft was present.   The only fighter on static display comes from People’s Liberation Army Air force (PLAAF) J-10B. 2x heavies comes from a single KJ-500 AEW aircraft and Y-20 military transport. The People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAR) fair a little better with the H-6K strike bomber and the JH-7A flying leopard Strike fighter.

Airwingspotter will be focusing on this air show’s Military Aircraft display with emphasis on the PLAAF J-20 5th Generation Stealth Fighter, J-10B 4th generation Fighter, Y-20 military transports, FC-1 fighter and FYC-2000G fighter which made up the main military aerial display of the airshow. Our 2nd emphasis will move onto the show’s static display emphasizing on the PLAAF and PLANAF Fighter , bomber, attack helicopter and transport forces. Finally, we will be looking into the Ground warfare equipment from the Chinese military complex like Norinco debut some of their latest and greatest Surface to Surface missile and radar platform to the Air defense system and Amour fighting vehicle families.

BaYi “八一” Aerobatic team

Airshow started with the PLAAF  Jet Aerobatic display team ( Bayi  “八一” Aerobatic team) Bayi meaning the date August 1st denoting the formation of PLAAF. They flew the J-10AY painted in Blue and white with red Chinese Insignia. The performance has change to a more United States Air force (USAF) Thunderbirds like maneuver which focuses on the maneuverability of the J10AY fighter.  In the past, Bayi did a lot of close 6 ship formation maneuvers which show the precision of the flight but did not show the strength and agility of the J-10 fighter. The current changes makes the display fill with much more energy and power. Several passes was made showing the precision and skills of the PLAAF pilots also including a minimal radius turn of the J10. The Final break  maneuver was very impressive showing a pitch up of the J-10AY followed by a high G turn and bank for landing. Unfortunately the display was done in the early morning which calls for very bad lighting photographing inside the airshow premises.

J-20 Fighter

3x J-20 made the opening ceremony of the airshow showing off the new 5th generation fighter of the PLAAF,. These fighters came in and did a 6 minutes aerial display showing off the maneuverability and power of the J20. They also spot with the new Camouflage pattern applied to operational PLAAF J-20 squadrons. The pattern seems to be painted with a stencil showing two tone grey pattern on the topside of the aircraft. Bottom of the jet remain single color.  As seem from the photographs, the J20 still uses the old Russian AL-31 Saturn Engines which does not provide sufficient thrust as the aircraft is design for, the new Chinese WS-15 engine which is still under development will be the engine ultimately use on the J20 which will have added thrust and ability to do thrust vectoring.   Another new addition was the Aerial refueling capability of the J-20 being installed. According to the State Media, the retractable Aerial refueling probe is position on the starboard aft of the aircraft and will increase the combat radius of the J20 to more than 1100km. The final debut of the J-20 shows off the missile bay on the closing ceremony of the airshow.  2x  J-20 open and close their missile bay at high speed showing off both Medium range and short range Air to air Missile in the bay.  The J-20 have a long way to go since the PLAAF have more testing of the new engine and perhaps Helmet mounted sights and other equipment and sensors need to be install and tested for operation before they can be fully operational.


Chinese equivalent of our C-17 , unofficially known as ” chubby girl” is a very capable transport which boast a payload capacity of 73 tons, this transport could easily carry any of Chinese military’s Main battle tank ( MBT ) . currently the jet is powered by 4x Soloviev D-30 turbofan engines and these will be replace with the newer Chinese made Shenyang WS-20 turbofan.  This Jet is base out of 12th Regiment of the 4th Transport Division at Chengdu, made several passes and shows the short take off and landing capabilities of the Y20.


For the 1st time this specially equipped J-10B having thrust Vectoring controls did series of flying maneuvers including J-turn( rapid changing of directions) Cobra ( nose pitch up ) and falling leaves maneuvers. This J-10B is equipped with a locally produced WS-10 Taihung engine.

JF-17 Thunder/ FC-1 XiaoLong Fighter

The JF-17/FC-1 is a single engine lightweight multi-role fighter built jointly by Chengdu Aircraft Industry and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. This Fighter is powered by a single Klimov RD-93 afterburner turbofan engine which gives 1218 mph speed and a range of 1880 nm. Standard armament include 1x 23mm Gsh23-2 twin barrel cannon or a single 30mm Gsh-30-2 cannon and seven hard points of 8000lb external ordnance. For the Airshow, the Pakistani owned JF-17 did a tactical demonstration showing the power and maneuverability of this nimble fighter.

FTC-2000G ( Mountain Eagle “山鹰”)

The FTC-2000G is a light attack fighter/trainer manufactured by Guizhou Aircraft Industry Corporation ( GAIC)  and enter service ion 2006. This aircraft gets her lean age to the Russian MIG-21 or the Chinese J-7 fighter. Obviously the engine have been upgraded and the entire nose and intake section have been redesign to cater for the new avionics and weaponry.Armament include Type 23-1 23mm canon and 5 hardppoints of 2000kg payload.

Our 2nd report will be focusing on the static aircraft’s and ground weapon systems


Article by Dave Chng

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