j-10a seen at zhuhai airshowJ-10A via WikipediaA decade ago the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) made everything from trucks, via black jacks to tea spoons to survive. But Avic is back, notes military expert Wendell Minnick in Defense News, with new types of fighter jets, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and airborne weapons, ready for international competition.

In 2008 the company restructured:

“This pooling of expertise and resources, usually under the centralized direction of some top-notch talent … is the most efficient way of harnessing China’s limited capabilities and resources,” said Gary Li, an intelligence analyst for U.K.-based Exclusive Analysis.

Commercial aircraft operations were swept into the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC). Nominally independent, the new company holds many factories and facilities that are still under military control despite corporate facades. Still, the spinoff removed some of the export-control obstacles that had hindered cooperation with Western aerospace companies.

“The remerger is to more effectively utilize the excess capacity of AVIC II for commercial airliner production, especially future anticipated production,” Bitzinger said.

Today, AVIC and COMAC and their subsidiaries produce all Chinese-made aircraft and components. COMAC also is building two commercial airliners, the C919 and ARJ21…

Since December, new aircraft have emerged that were considered unthinkable five years ago: the J-20 stealth fighter, J-18 vertical/short­takeoff-and-landing fighter, J-15 carrier-borne fighter and L-15 lead-in fighter trainer. And that followed November’s Zhuhai air show, the biggest in China’s history, where major European and U.S. aerospace companies vied for space.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had long struggled to lift its defense industry out of a morbid Communist system that mass­produced cheap copies of Russian junk. In 1993, the Chinese government spliced AVIC together from various parts of the former Ministry of Aerospace Industry and military­owned factories and research institutes.

More on Wendell Minnick’s weblog

Wendell_MinnickWendell Minnick by Fantake via Flickr

Wendell Minnick is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch.

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