So, after yesterday's teaser, here's what we did on day 1.
We visited the 24th Airborne Division where we were welcomed by a reception committee...
and given a formal briefing illustrated by slides from Lt. Colonel Wang Yongqiang who is the head of the foreign service. This was followed by comments from Colonel Yan Feng, commander of the division who told us that the Chinese air force's task was “to protect the population of our nation and our citizens abroad.”
But as you can see from the photos below, aircraft were thin on the ground. There was just this one J10 and its training version.
We were allowed into the cockpit but not allowed to photograph it but I can tell you that the cockpit looked like a cross between a modern glass cockpit and an older generation analog one. There were three fairly large (I'd say about 20cm x 12cm) digital display screens, two set on the same level and the third set between them and lower. Above them and raised over the windscreen was what I can only assume was a heads-up display, but instead of being flat it was like a half-opened book with the spine facing you. It was dark glass. To the left, right and below the display screens were the various dials which appeared to be analog.
Behind the pilot's ejecter seat was quite a large empty space as is fairly clear from my photo. The guy sitting in the pilot's seat was not a pilot: he was just there to make sure we didn't take photos or fiddle with things!
The J10 is 13.43m long, has a wingspan of 9.75m and is 5.43m high. It has a take-off weight of 1.8tons, cruises at a height of 18,000m, flies at Mach 1.8 and has a range of 1,250 kms. It needs 350m to take-off and 650m to land. There are 11 points of attachment underwing and underbelly and it carries air-to-air missiles, a 23mm gun and “intelligent bombs.”
I asked Colonel Yan what kind of aircraft he'd like to see in the air force in 10 years time, but he thought at first I was edging him to say he wanted to buy the Rafale. Somewhat to our surprise the first part of his answer was to remind us that during the 1982 Falklands conflict, France had helped Britain with information about the Exocet missiles it had sold to Argentina. He then went on to say: “We would choose the Rafale over the Typhoon except for the problem of supply of spare parts.” I said I hadn't been angling for him to tell us the Chinese air force wanted the Rafale because we were well aware that the aircraft would be a Chinese one so he said: “It's difficult to foresee where R&D will take us, but in 10 years we would like to have the capacity to do what the pilot wants.” From which one can deduce that for the time being they can't.
Tomorrow I'll tell you about our visit to the Shanghai naval base and show you a photo of the submarine. But meanwhile here's one of a model J11 I saw a few days later at the August 1 Film Studios -- the studios of the People's Liberation Army.
... and of our evening banquet.