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Video - Zhuhai Airshow: China’s airborne arsenal

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At Zhuhai in China, it is a little like Christmas in advance. 700 aviation industry manufacturers, more than half of whom being Chinese, are gathered together to exhibit their new "toys". From November 11th to 16th, about fifty kilometres (30 miles) as the crow flies, west of Hong Kong, the China Airshow is an opportunity for the country to present its range of military aircraft.

There are the newies, such as the highly acclaimed J-31, whose lines are reminiscent of the American F-35. This Chinese fifth generation stealth fighter is currently under development and, more than likely, will be capable of operating from aircraft carriers. Able to fly faster than Mach 2 (2,200 km/h or 1,360 mph), its manufacturer Avic, well intends to export it in the years to come.

Another gift in Avic’s sack of goodies, but bigger, is the Y-20 military transport ‘plane; with its nearly 50 metre (164 ft.) length and 45 metre (150 ft.) wingspan, it made its first flight in January 2013, and much like the J-31, its first public appearance. Programmed to be commissioned in 2017, it will be able to carry a payload of up to 66 metric tons over a range of 3,700 kilometres (2,300 miles).

Under the Christmas tree at Zhuhai, there was also the WZ-10 combat helicopter, unveiled at the previous edition (in 2012). Equipped with a 30mm cannon mounted under the nose of the helicopter and in operation since 2006 with the Chinese army, it was designed primarily for anti-tank operations.

Finally the Lijian stealth drone, which made its first flight a year ago, completes the range. Designed for the Chinese Air Force and Navy, the 14 metre (50 ft.) wingspan drone is designed for reconnaissance and combat. With the Lijian, China is the fourth nation after the United States, the United Kingdom and France who has conducted a successful flight with a stealth combat drone.

With this arsenal, China reinforces the image of its military aviation industry, and is already the fourth largest weapons exporter.

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