Air Force buys Chinese planes

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

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.

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