Air Force buys Chinese planes
The Air Force Academy recently purchased 25 advanced trainers from Cirrus Aircraft for its powered-flight program, an integral part of the cadets’ pilot training.
After Cessna, the Minnesotabased Cirrus Aircraft is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of single-engine general aviation aircraft. The new planes, known as T-53A trainers, come with sophisticated avionics and the most advanced flight safety and recovery design and systems. They are custom-designed for the Air Force based on Cirrus’ SR20 model.
The deal is worth $6.1 million. Delivery is already under way and is expected to be completed by 2012.
One problem is that Cirrus Industries Inc., the aircraft maker’s parent company, is 100 percent owned by the Chinese communist government. It was purchased by the Chinese in March 2011 for a reported $210 million.
The sale was not blocked for national security concerns by Congress or the Obama administration, even with opposition from Rep. Chip Cravaack, Minnesota Republican, who stated in a letter to the Treasury De- partment in March that the sale could compromise U.S. national security. Despite alarms coming from several sides, the sale was finalized by the end of June.
Only days after the purchase was completed, the new Chinese owners received the aircraft order from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. The Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece newspaper People’s Daily on July 12 called the transaction “revolutionar y” because it marked the first time the U.S. Air Force ordered an entire set of aircraft from China for militar y training equipment.
Cirrus was sold to a Chinese firm called China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. Ltd., or CAIGA, a subsidiary of China Aviation Industry Corp., a government-owned conglomerate formed in July 2008 under direct orders from the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. With seemingly unlimited financial resources from the newly rich Chinese government, China Aviation Industry Corp. is the Chinese company with the most state-owned banks’ loan guarantees, more than $50 billion in 2009 alone. It was created with the goal of gobbling up the world’s general aviation assets during the historic global financial downturn.
Reporting on the significance of the Cirrus deal, the government-controlled English newspaper China Daily said “the acquisition of Cirrus will be an important step for [China Aviation Industry Corp.’s] global expansion plan, which aims to set up R&D, sales and service centers in China, the U.S. and Europe. The company currently has its manufacturing base in Zhuhai, Guangdong province.” gations that the United States harbors insidious naval and maritime plans to contain a rising China with all its naval power, has stimulated renewed robust calls among China’s military scholars and strategists to speed up and dramatically expand the People’s Liberation Army’s aircraft carrier program.
Already euphoric about the prospect of its first aircraft carrier, the former Russian-designed Varyag, set to begin sea trials, China is revving up its propaganda machine with demands for more carriers, which Beijing considers a symbol of greatness and hegemony.
On July 10, Zhang Zhengwen, professor at the PLA Command and Staff College in Nanjing, a key training facility for senior military officers, said in a published article that China needs a “powerful and effective [naval] deterrence” in the South China Sea so that the nations in the region will give up their desire to make trouble for China in the area once and for all.
Mr. Zhang further demanded “swift and decisive punitive actions” against repeated provocateurs, without mercy.
A few days earlier, Li Jie, a senior PLA navy captain, weighed in with comments in Tengxun, a popular military forum, elaborating on why the lack of a robust aircraft carrier program was linked to the downfall of the former Soviet Union.
Capt. Li said a great power such a China should never be satisfied with having just one aircraft carrier and explaining why three would be a barebones minimum for China.