The last decade has seen a dramatic intensification of relations between Belarus and China at various levels. In particular, Alexander Lukashenka has already visited this distant country five times. The Celestial Empire leaders return the favour: China’s senior government officials at the level of the President and his deputies have also more than once visited our country.
According to many analysts, such activity in international relations is largely due to the pragmatic Chinese intention to use original developments of Belarusian academic and applied research, as well as those of institutions and enterprises of the domestic military-industrial complex.
They refer to the recent message of the Xinhua Chinese news agency, according to which there has been established a state base of scientific and technical cooperation with Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and other CIS countries in Changchun, northeast Jilin Province. It is oriented towards the contacts in the field of optical electronics, material science, biotechnology and other branches of science.
Somewhat earlier the Belarusian State University and the Harbin Institute of Technology (hereinafter referred to as HIP) signed a cooperation agreement, according to which the parties have established the center of scientific and technical cooperation for joint research and development of new technologies. According to the rector of HIP Zhao Qi, working with BSU should encourage HIP’s scientific research in such advanced areas as nanotechnology, laser technology, etc.
However, some experts suppose that our practical Chinese partners are not interested in Belarusian science per se. China needs its achievements above to be used in space exploration and creation of advanced dual- and military-purpose technologies. The Belarusian side seems to be well aware of this.
Explaining the fact that Belarus was chosen to be one of the major sources of scientific and technical dial-purpose information, experts refer to the current NATO embargo of China on the latest developments in this field, which has been operating for about a quarter of a century. This ban was imposed after a brutal crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Russia has also recently become more wary of its Chinese partners in military and technical cooperation. It practically stopped to sell the newest types of Russian weapons to Beijing, because virtually all samples previously delivered to the Celestial Empire have been copied and are even being offered for sale to third countries.
Indeed, in recent years China has managed to create a number of competitive enough samples of aircraft and missile weapons based on the technology borrowed in the post-Soviet countries and the West. Nevertheless, analysts say that today China’s military-industrial complex still lacks the most modern technologies in cutting-edge areas, including navigation and guidance of precision weapons, air defence and missile defence systems, automated control systems of various classes and purposes, unmanned aerial vehicles, and so on.
Hence the evident desire of the Chinese leaders to get the most advanced military and dual-use technologies from wherever possible. However, as mentioned above, China’s ability to get them from the world leaders is quite limited today. In this connection the Chinese feel an urgent need to find alternative sources. Belarus is supposed to be one of them.
Military and technical cooperation between Belarus and China: high-precision weapons and electronic warfare.
Precision-guided weapons. If we talk about the foreground areas of interest, it is necessary to mention Belarusian developments in the field of high-precision weapons. In particular, as Alexander Lukashenko once said in an interview to the France-Press agency, our military-industrial complex created a guidance system which allows hitting a given target with nearly 100 percent accuracy.
According to experts, such a system operates on the following principle: the optical seeker head (OSH) forms the image of the terrain in the target area. The on-board computer compares this image with the digital reference map, introduced when preparing the rocket for launch. This map is based on aerial or satellite photographs.
Adding inertial guidance system and satellite navigation to such an OSH makes it possible to hit the particular objects in almost any weather conditions and at any time of day.
The latest version of this development is used in the Russian missile complex “Iskander”, the previous versions are used in a number of cruise and ballistic missiles. For example, the targeting of the Soviet-designed X-55 air long-range cruise missile (ALCM) is arranged in much the same way, as well as this of China’s CJ-10 and its later modification CJ-20.
Many analysts believe that mentioning Soviet and Chinese cruise missiles in one list is not accidental, as it is the X-55 which became the prototype for the latter. Some of them were illegally exported from Ukraine during the presidency of Leonid Kuchma.
Part of this weapon, left in Kiev by the Soviet Army, was hidden in warehouses of the Ukrainian Defence Ministry and then secretly sold to the countries interested in establishing or enhancing its nuclear and missile capabilities. Between 1999 and 2001 they purchased 12 X-55 missiles from Ukraine. According to the documents, the missiles were allegedly intended to be returned to Russia, but were directed to Iran and China.
However, regarding the possibilities of customers to get real benefit from the deal, there were substantial differences in the opinions among experts until recently. Thus, some of them denied the possibility of China’s use of Ukrainian ALCM, even as a model for creating own similar weapons.
Firstly, the only aircraft carriers for these ALCM are Tu-95MS and Tu-160, which are not available in China. Secondly, there is a lack of special equipment for the preparation and input of the flight mission in cruise missiles. And thirdly, there is a lack of the aforesaid technical facilities for the preparation of digital maps for the guidance of this type of weapons.
According to the opposite point of view, in addition to long-range Tu- 95MS and Tu -160 it is possible to adapt other bombers of sufficient capacity for the delivery of air-based cruise missiles. And it as also possible to buy the training equipment and digital maps in the way, the missiles were purchased (i.e. by criminal means).
As for own digital maps for ALCM, they can be created on the basis of aerial and satellite images, which can be produced by Belarusian “Automated mapping system to create, update, store and deliver maps and plans in digital and graphical form”. The equipment for aerial and satellite photographs is produced in Belarus as well.
Although official information on joint projects in this field is not present, China’s recent successes in the field of high-precision weapons provide a basis to state with a high degree of probability that the Belarusian-Chinese cooperation in the defence sector has moved forward.
An indirect proof of the fact that China has mastered not only the technology of production of cruise missiles, but of the high-precision guidance systems for them as well, can be some aspects of its space program. In particular, a sharp intensification of launching satellites such as “Yaogan” for remote sensing of the Earth, including the optical range.
An interesting point here is the fact, that the first such satellite was launched by China in 2006. According to the official version, this series of spacecraft collect data on natural resources, the environment, the state of acreage, as well as carried out researches in the field of urban planning and conducting space science experiments. However, experts believe their main purpose is the military one.
In this context, one can not forget about the Belarusian satellite “BelKA” developed in 2002-2004. It was supposed to carry on board the domestic multispectral equipment of MK-4 type, designed for photographing the Earth’s surface, as well as topographic camera TK-350, designed for making photographs used for the creation of high-precision topographic maps.
According to the official version “BelKA” was to be used mainly for getting mapping, geological and environmental information. However, even then some experts stated that the satellite “BelKA” is without doubt the dual-purpose machine. And the data received from it will primarily be used in the military field.
Mainly it concerns the satellite photographs used as a raw material for the creation of high-precision topographic and digital maps. And they in turn are used for guidance of high-precision weapon systems, such as cruise missiles and aeroballistic missiles. And although the first satellite “BelKA” failed to complete its mission in 2006 after the accident with Ukrainian carrier rocket “Dnepr”, by strange circumstances similar satellite was launched in China in the same year.
Another development in the field of high-precision weapons, which (according to certain information) are very interesting for Chinese military, is modernization complex “Module-A”, designed to improve the performance characteristics of conventional bombs. In any case, it was given the particular attention by General Chang Wanquan during a visit to the V International exhibition of arms and military equipment Milex-2009.
As you can see from the information made public in the media, “Module-A” provides increased range of modernized bombs from the discharge point to the target area by the aerodynamic surfaces, and greater accuracy rate by using the signals of satellite navigation (GPS, GLONASS): focusing on them, module control system actuates wing ailerons and corrects their trajectory.
Although more detailed information about the device products is not reported by the representatives of 558th plant, even from the available data we can see that during the creation of “Module-A” the concept, similar to the American JDAM, was used. Thanks to it the range of bombs from the point of separation to the target from the height of 12 thousand meters has significantly increased — from the 6 km to 60 km. That allows the aircraft carrier to stay far from the air defence system covering up the target, while dropping the bombs. This provides sufficient accuracy that does not depend on the distance of dropping, weather conditions and time of day.
EW equipment. A number of signs suggests the growing cooperation between Belarus and China in the field of electronic warfare (hereafter EW). For both usage in the own defence, and for sale. Moreover, that according to the “Defence Aerospace” (referring to the forecast of research firm “Forecast International”), in the next ten years, the global electronic warfare systems market will reach 28.4 billion dollars.
As for Belarusian developments in the field of the means of conducting electronic warfare, which may be of interest in China, it is necessary to mention the complex of electronic intelligence 85V6-A and 85V6-B developed in the Soviet era for detecting and tracking of up to 100 land, sea and air facilities, using the radiation from their electronic equipment. For example, the air targets at an altitude of 10 km can be detected at 400 km.
Among the jamming devices it is necessary to admit the stations of powerful jamming SNP-2 and SNP-4 designed to disrupt the on-board electronics of warplanes. The fresh developments are: the radio station R-934UM “Udar” and the R-378UM “Ukol”.
One of the priority directions of development of arms and military equipment in Belarus is to develop an effective means of countering high-precision weapons. The jamming complex for laser guidance systems “Sapphire” and the jamming complex for system of global radio navigation GPS “Naves-U” are already produced and delivered for field testing in the Belarusian army.
One of the latest developments in the area of the means of electronic countermeasures for aircraft is Belarusian complex “Satellite”. This is on-board equipment of individual electronic countermeasures for aircraft against high-precision radio-controlled weapons with active “surface-to-air” and “air-to-air” missiles with radar homing.
Being, at the request of the manufacturer (558th Aircraft Repair Plant), the only product of its kind in the world, “Satellite” with a high probability excludes the possibility of protected object of being defeated by missiles with radar homing and automatically creates jamming for all the attacking enemy radars (interceptor fighters, anti-aircraft missile system). It is possible to install the equipment both on the military and civilian aircraft in a container or a conformal version.
Military-technical cooperation between Belarus and China: automotive equipment and more.
Chinese missiles on Belarusian wheels. One of the “old” trends in Belarusian-Chinese cooperation in the field of dual-use technology is the production of multi-wheeled chassis and tractors for special installation, including military equipment and weapons for different purposes. In 1998, in the Chinese city of Hubei in Siogan Province a joint assembly plant “Sanjiang Volat Co., Ltd.” for the production of multi-wheeled tractors and chassis for various purposes with capacity from 20 to 75 tons was established.
The founders of the joint venture with a capital of 52.2 million yuan were Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant (MWTP) with share in the authorized capital is 30% and Aerospace Corporation “Sanjiang” with the 70 % share in the authorized capital. MWTP contributed technologies (including for the production of “543rd” model) and accessories.
In accordance with the statutes, in the first 5 years of operation 70 % of all components for the plant should have been delivered by MWTP. Subsequently, the share of Belarusian components was intended to be reduced to 30%. But the Chinese, known for their outstanding talent for copying, exceeded the plan, and now MWTP provides them only with the wheel hubs. According to the official version, the production facilities of “Sanjiang Volat Co., Ltd” are designed to produce 300 multi-axis machines in the year to meet the needs of the “oil , construction, mining and forestry industries”.
Cooperation of Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant and the Chinese aerospace corporation “Sanjiang” continued. The partners created a joint production of hydro-mechanical transmission (HMT) for heavy vehicles and wheeled tractors. The Memorandum on the establishment of a limited liability company “Sanjiang – Volat”, which specializes in the manufacture of these products, was signed in Minsk on September 2, 2009.
In accordance with this document, the total amount of the share capital of the new company is determined to 22.2 million USD. 50 % of this amount was contributed by MWTP, another 50 % — by the “Sanjiang” corporation. Belarusian plant contributed intangible assets (latest design and technological developments of MWTP), while the Chinese party contributed real money. The joint venture is situated on one of the industrial areas of MWTP, in the 124th car assembly plant.
The main areas of application of wheel chassis and tractors, manufactured in China and based on technology developed at the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant, can be seen in parades of People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which regularly feature new models of rockets placed on a wheelbase developed on the MWTP.
In particular, a new version of intercontinental ballistic missiles “Dong Feng 1” (DF- 31). Experts point out that this is the first Chinese mobile complex, with which a nuclear attack on Washington can be launched. For example, ballistic missile 21 -D, designed to target surface ships, especially aircraft carriers, causes particular concern of the representatives of the U.S. Navy.
While analyzing the images of these missiles military analysts have noted the striking similarity of multi-wheel conveyors carrying missile launchers DF-21 of various modifications (as well as the DF-31) and wheeled chassis MAZ-543, which in Soviet times were made for defence needs in the special orders of the Minsk Automobile Plant (now Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant).
Air Defence and more. Sufficiently high technical performance and fighting qualities of the Belarusian air defence system caused a strong interest in China. Among the indisputable advantages of Belarusian air defence, considered by experts, is the creation of an efficient system of command and control, which allows all disparate elements included in the Air Force and Air Defence to function effectively as a kind of unit, which is one of the most difficult problems for any army in the world.
Its important feature is the possibility of setting in automatic mode of combat missions to destroy enemy aircraft both for fire weapons and separate planes as well as for divisions, regiments and brigades in whole. And the best variants of solution are offered for them. Accounting of the hit and missed targets is also automatic. In this automated system the procedures for the exchange of real-time information with ACS of similar purpose are integrated.
According to Russian sources in 2000-2002 China and Belarus signed several agreements in this area. The most large-scale joint projects include the implementation of three contracts for the creation of special automated control systems (ACS), the development of radio communications and special software by Belarusian scientific production association “Agate”.
Belarusian-Chinese military developments in the field of radar technologies, in particular the new mobile (mounted on the cross-country chassis of “MWTP”) radar meter band station “East”, created by the design bureau “Radar”, have also not been unnoticed. The new radar has increased chances of finding targets, such as the F-16 and other aircraft manufactured using stealth technology.
As far as it can be concluded from the information released to the media, the prospects of cooperation between Belarus and China in the development and production of anti-aircraft missile systems similar to medium-range S-300 both for their own use and for sale to third countries, look quite serious.
China’s military industry is already producing its own version of this SAM, but its tactical and technical parameters are much lower than the ones of S-300. It is possible that the Chinese side has the intention to benefit from the rich experience of Belarusian operation, repair and possibly upgrade of the S- 300 to improve the quality of their products.
Traditional area of military-technical cooperation between Belarus and China is major repair (and in recent times also the modernization) of the Su-27 and Mi-8 helicopters for the Chinese army. Maintenance programs for the Su-27 and for their modernization, including on the production facilities of the customer, were developed by 558th aircraft repair plant.
One of the new areas of Belarusian defence industry that could interest Chinese military is the modernization of multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) “Smerch”. These systems entered service in Belarus in 1987. China initiated a broad production of versions of these systems and would like to use Belarusian experience and technologies.
Among the recent developments it is necessary to admit an automated control system for missile units. Which is supposed to increase the combat effectiveness of multiple launch rocket systems as well as to solve the problem of maneuver, organization, planning and fire in real time.