Text and Images: Jayd Wollentine – The 13th China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition took place from 28 September until 3 October in Zhuhai, Peoples Republic of China. This year’s show, postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was considered a huge success and attracted many internationally recognised corporations, as well as thousands of aviation enthusiasts.
THE AIRSHOW WAS SEPARATED into two segments, with conferences and weapons demonstrations taking place from 28 September until 30 September, while public days were held from 1 October, China’s National Day, until 3 October. There were no foreign participants in the air displays.
Once I had figured out how to purchase tickets online using the Airshow China website, the process of entering and attending was relatively smooth. As a foreign airshow visitor, all I needed was a passport and screenshots of my ticket purchase.
The Static displays consisted of mostly military equipment, such as the newly unveiled Shenyang J-16 and J-7A2 electronic warfare strike aircraft, a Xian H6K strategic bomber as well as the workhorse of the PLAAF, the Chengdu J-10C multirole fighter. COMAC (The Commercial Aviation Company of China), also took the opportunity to unveil its CBJ Chinese Business Jet. An AVIC AG600 seaplane towered over the few civilian light sport aircraft on show.
Many military enthusiasts had been looking forward to the debut of a new generation of H-20 stealth bombers, but there was no official news about the development of the aircraft.
‘the actual airshow was suprisingly limited’
Notable absentees from static displays were the Chengdu J-20 Stealth fighter, which performed aerobatic displays during the first three days in PLAAF colours and was equipped with domestically developed engines, as well as the newly developed Harbin Z-20 helicopter.
Crowds were wowed by displays by the PLAAF ‘August 1st,’ and ‘Red Falcon,’ demonstration teams, although the flight schedule over the five days was inconsistent, with many of the military displays taking place during the first three days of the show, leaving many spectators disappointed.
Inside the exhibition halls, venerable aerospace and defence companies such as Boeing, Airbus, Pratt & Whitney, Thales, Norinco, and many others exhibited a wide variety of weapon systems, engines, airframes, air-defence equipment, small arms, and munitions. A surprisingly large amount of unmanned ground and aerial vehicles were also on show. It was hard to tell how many of these were mock-ups.
Many designs with a striking resemblance to US equipment were also seen. An exhibit that attracted a lot of attention was the space exhibit, which showcased China’s recent space successes, with many models of space vehicles and lunar samples displayed. Models of future Mars Rovers could also be seen and interacted with through virtual reality systems.
Bilingual smart munitions displays showed in great detail how their weapons would be guided to target, or how the equipment had the ability to loiter in the area of operations. Land and ship-based cruise missile launchers towered above the exhibition hall floor, with missiles alongside them.
During the public days, a display of locally designed and manufactured armoured vehicles also took place, with VT4 Main Battle Tanks, MRAPs and fast all-terrain-vehicles kicking up clouds of dust in a heavy metal ballet dance, much to the delight of the spectators. Unfortunately, there were no explosions.
Airshow China 2021 was, by all intents and purposes, a successful event. It showcased many different aspects of the up and coming Chinese Air Force, as well as the development of their aviation industry.
The airshow however, did seem at times to focus more on the defence side of things, instead of the flying aspect. One should not however, discredit the organisers for their hard work. It was a great way to spend a weekend and is definitely something any aviation enthusiast should experience.