Evolution of the PLA in a continued Cold War

Keyboard Commando

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After the Sino-Soviet split the PLA really stagnated until they opened to the west in the late 70s, but even then the slow trickle of technology didn't help the PLA too much. It was the fall of the Soviet Union and the Russians providing them with lots of relatively advanced equipment and know-how for relatively low prices that really spurred the development of the PLA into the force it is today. For this scenario, lets assume the Soviets had been instituting economic reforms and generally took a stable modernization approach like the Chinese in our time-line. They are a rough equal economically to the US (back in the day it was predicted the USSR would match the US economically in 2010) while the Chinese are still in third place.

I've heard some proposed sales to China like AH-1s as well as the Peace Pearl J-8 and the Phalcon AWACS, I'd be interested to hear of any other sales proposed at the time. How would increased western assistance influence the development of the PLA, what is going to take the place of the Flanker family, how different is the J-9/10 if it exists at all, would we see the massive expansion of the PLAN like we do now, do they opt for western style tanks a la WZ-1224 etc etc. Any additional input is welcome as I am not well informed on the PLA and it's development.
 

Archibald

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A long time ago I bought this magazine.
0464723_1.jpg


It had a lengthy discussion about the state of the Chinese air force by 1987. Well, the Chinese were stuck with developments of the J-7 and J-8. Really. As you noted, only after 1992 did chinese scientists and engineers toured a moribund Soviet Union and stole or bought any interesting advanced technology they could fin, all the way from Varyag to Soyuz including the Su-27.
Before the Tien An Men bloodbath of 1989, however, China hoped to get more advanced aircraft technology, not from Russia or URSS, but from Grumman - from the United States. The slaughter and the following economic backlash and embargo really ruined China hope. They were kind of lucky enough the soviet Union collapsed and the newborn Russia was willing to sell them advanced technologies.
In the scenario you imagine, since the soviet Union does not collapse, China only hope remainswith Grumman, and this is tied to Tian An Men slaughter happening - or not. If it happens, then China is twice screwed.
Hence they are probably stuck with J-8 and J-7 for many years to come. Although they might create a new fighter type, it probably suffers from a lack of advanced avionics, radar and AAMs.
The chinese air force was well aware of this, and their mantra / dogma was: LARGE NUMBERS. The magazine I mentionned said they had 4000 to 7000 combat aircrafts, which is quite a huge numbers in the era of jet aircrafts.
 

Grey Havoc

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Assuming that Tiananmen Square didn't occur in this alternate timeline, another project that would have almost certainly have proceeded to production status in the early 1990s was the Jaguar Main Battle Tank.
 

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Western manufactures were queueing up to sell their wares to China before Tiananmen Square.
Grumman wanted to massively upgrade the F-7 and the F-8, Alenia wanted to upgrade the A-5 with modern MIL-1553 databuses and avionics as the A-5M, Thomson-CSF wanted to put a laser-rangefinder in the A-5K, HAECO upgraded the Y-7, McDonnell were building MD-90 series airliners, the French sold a bunch of naval armaments and radars, Rolls-Royce selling them Spey.

Its possible that Western influence would have been much greater, its not in the realms of fantasy to imagine a programme like the Japanese F-2 with General Dynamics had the path of technical cooperation continued on that trend, of course its possible the ideological differences between the USSR and China might have thawed anyway and allowed more technical transfer.
 

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France sold Super Frelons and Dauphin helicopters, Exocet missiles and a whole bunch of other military stuff, indeed... (Roland missiles ?)
 

Hood

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France sold Super Frelons and Dauphin helicopters, Exocet missiles and a whole bunch of other military stuff, indeed... (Roland missiles ?)
Crotale is the one you are thinking of, used both as imported and copied versions. Also sold the Squirrel and the 100mm naval gun too. There were rumours that in the mid-1980s France had sold six long-range radars and an airspace management system for the Beijing/Shanghai areas.
It does seem that French salesmen were very active during the 1980s and that the events of 1989 did not deter them from following through with the deals. And it didn't seem to stop them from selling La Fayette frigates to Taiwan a few years later either.

I would estimate that without French assistance that the PLAN would look rather different today, they would have had to either develop indigenous gunnery and SAM systems sooner or rely on older 1950s-era technology for longer. In any scenario where the USSR does not collapse in 1990, this means no unfinished Sovremmenys or Kilos laying around to sell off at low prices either. Not the mention all those floating amusement parks *ahem* that were cluttering the Nikolayev South shipyard.
 

Archibald

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France sold Super Frelons and Dauphin helicopters, Exocet missiles and a whole bunch of other military stuff, indeed... (Roland missiles ?)
Crotale is the one you are thinking of, used both as imported and copied versions. Also sold the Squirrel and the 100mm naval gun too. There were rumours that in the mid-1980s France had sold six long-range radars and an airspace management system for the Beijing/Shanghai areas.
It does seem that French salesmen were very active during the 1980s and that the events of 1989 did not deter them from following through with the deals. And it didn't seem to stop them from selling La Fayette frigates to Taiwan a few years later either.

I would estimate that without French assistance that the PLAN would look rather different today, they would have had to either develop indigenous gunnery and SAM systems sooner or rely on older 1950s-era technology for longer. In any scenario where the USSR does not collapse in 1990, this means no unfinished Sovremmenys or Kilos laying around to sell off at low prices either. Not the mention all those floating amusement parks *ahem* that were cluttering the Nikolayev South shipyard.

Mind you, just like they tried buying Melbourne from the RAN, the chinese went to Toulon and made an offer for the Clemenceau carrier. The year was 1996: it was retired in October 1997. You can see that they lost no time ! And they were rebuked. They set their sights on Varyag afterwards.

With perfect hindsight, it would avoided the dismal and shameful and pathetic psychodrama happened a decade later, when the rusted hull of the same Clemenceau spend months at sea, towed, destination nowhere... and then, back to France. Before moving back again to a breaker, for real.

I'm fascinated by post-1990 fate of soviet carriers.

- China started a collection of *Kiev* "amusement parks" (yeah, very believable...) only to prefer Kuznetstov siblings (Varyag, Liaoning...) in the end.

- India got the very last *Kiev* not in Chinese hands and build his own carrier out of it - the irony.

- And Ullyanovsk, on paper the largest and perhaps most capable of the lot, went nowhere and was scrapped.

Now you gave me an intriguing idea. In a world where China never got its collection of Kiev, plus Varyag - imagine they got Clemenceau instead, and started improving and building them in place of Liaoning.

An improved, non-nuclear Clemenceau would look like PA58 Verdun.

A further improved, nuclear Clemenceau... well, it would be like a Charles de Gaulle.

Crap ! A PLN fleet of Verdun and CdG clones. In the 21st century. How weird is that ?!! My mind is blown.
 
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Keyboard Commando

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Western manufactures were queueing up to sell their wares to China before Tiananmen Square.
Grumman wanted to massively upgrade the F-7 and the F-8, Alenia wanted to upgrade the A-5 with modern MIL-1553 databuses and avionics as the A-5M, Thomson-CSF wanted to put a laser-rangefinder in the A-5K, HAECO upgraded the Y-7, McDonnell were building MD-90 series airliners, the French sold a bunch of naval armaments and radars, Rolls-Royce selling them Spey.

Its possible that Western influence would have been much greater, its not in the realms of fantasy to imagine a programme like the Japanese F-2 with General Dynamics had the path of technical cooperation continued on that trend, of course its possible the ideological differences between the USSR and China might have thawed anyway and allowed more technical transfer.
The F-2 analogy intrigues me because I saw on another forum an F-16 in PLAAF colors, so maybe we have a scenario to flesh out of that. Shenyang had a design called the J-13 which looked very close to the F-16 and used the same planeform configuration, and they were license building the Spey for the JH-7 at the time. China needs a modern fighter to compete with Soviet 4th generation fighters so Shenyang and General Dynamics begin collaborating on what is basically a license built F-16 but with a more powerful Spey derivative (afterburning TF41?) in place of the F100. It is advanced enough to modernize their forces significantly and be competitive with Soviet designs but isn't large and advanced enough to threaten the Japanese or other US allies. Maybe someone can make a model or drawing of this armed with Aspides and Python-3s, and I don't remember where but I read that the Reagan administration considered selling F-16s to China so it's not too implausible.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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A long time ago I bought this magazine.
0464723_1.jpg


It had a lengthy discussion about the state of the Chinese air force by 1987. Well, the Chinese were stuck with developments of the J-7 and J-8. Really. As you noted, only after 1992 did chinese scientists and engineers toured a moribund Soviet Union and stole or bought any interesting advanced technology they could fin, all the way from Varyag to Soyuz including the Su-27.
Before the Tien An Men bloodbath of 1989, however, China hoped to get more advanced aircraft technology, not from Russia or URSS, but from Grumman - from the United States. The slaughter and the following economic backlash and embargo really ruined China hope. They were kind of lucky enough the soviet Union collapsed and the newborn Russia was willing to sell them advanced technologies.
In the scenario you imagine, since the soviet Union does not collapse, China only hope remainswith Grumman, and this is tied to Tian An Men slaughter happening - or not. If it happens, then China is twice screwed.
Hence they are probably stuck with J-8 and J-7 for many years to come. Although they might create a new fighter type, it probably suffers from a lack of advanced avionics, radar and AAMs.
The chinese air force was well aware of this, and their mantra / dogma was: LARGE NUMBERS. The magazine I mentionned said they had 4000 to 7000 combat aircrafts, which is quite a huge numbers in the era of jet aircrafts.

I don't agree with this at all.

J-10 was under serious development in 1987 already. Avionics and AAM development was underway (both with Israeli assistance/tech transfer), the only missing piece would be the engine. Most likely the J-10 would have had a reverse engineered R-29 turbojet in initial series production, switching to indigenous WS-10 when ready.

Su-27 was a great way to bring the PLA overall quality up quickly, but I don't see the loss of such imports radically affecting the longer term trajectory.
 

uk 75

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This is a tricky scenario to develop.
Perhaps it is better to just focus on possible alternative procurement routes for the PLA from 1990 to the present.
a. The relationship with Russian manufacturers and designs may well have still been strong. Especially after Tianmen or similar hardline crackdowns. China as an authoritarian one party state would as today be closer to Russia/Soviet Union in world view.
b. Had the Soviet Union clashed with China in the Far East more than in the real world, France rather than UK or US would have been (as in our reality) the beneficiary. Mitterand/ Chirac's France had plenty of weapons families to offer (Mirage2000/Rafale Foch/Clemenceau/Mistrale even De Gaulle Leclerc Puma/Tiger Crotale/Aster)
c. The least likely is the US as supplier. Taiwan, South Korea and Japan stay as main US regional allies in a continued Cold War. Some individual US and UK items like helicopters and guns would get sold but not F16/15/18 or major warships
 

Archibald

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A long time ago I bought this magazine.
0464723_1.jpg


It had a lengthy discussion about the state of the Chinese air force by 1987. Well, the Chinese were stuck with developments of the J-7 and J-8. Really. As you noted, only after 1992 did chinese scientists and engineers toured a moribund Soviet Union and stole or bought any interesting advanced technology they could fin, all the way from Varyag to Soyuz including the Su-27.
Before the Tien An Men bloodbath of 1989, however, China hoped to get more advanced aircraft technology, not from Russia or URSS, but from Grumman - from the United States. The slaughter and the following economic backlash and embargo really ruined China hope. They were kind of lucky enough the soviet Union collapsed and the newborn Russia was willing to sell them advanced technologies.
In the scenario you imagine, since the soviet Union does not collapse, China only hope remainswith Grumman, and this is tied to Tian An Men slaughter happening - or not. If it happens, then China is twice screwed.
Hence they are probably stuck with J-8 and J-7 for many years to come. Although they might create a new fighter type, it probably suffers from a lack of advanced avionics, radar and AAMs.
The chinese air force was well aware of this, and their mantra / dogma was: LARGE NUMBERS. The magazine I mentionned said they had 4000 to 7000 combat aircrafts, which is quite a huge numbers in the era of jet aircrafts.

I don't agree with this at all.

J-10 was under serious development in 1987 already. Avionics and AAM development was underway (both with Israeli assistance/tech transfer), the only missing piece would be the engine. Most likely the J-10 would have had a reverse engineered R-29 turbojet in initial series production, switching to indigenous WS-10 when ready.

Su-27 was a great way to bring the PLA overall quality up quickly, but I don't see the loss of such imports radically affecting the longer term trajectory.

Didn't knew about the Israel connection. Were / are the J-10 and Lavi related in any way, even indirectly ? Was it affected by Tienan Men butchering ?
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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A long time ago I bought this magazine.
0464723_1.jpg


It had a lengthy discussion about the state of the Chinese air force by 1987. Well, the Chinese were stuck with developments of the J-7 and J-8. Really. As you noted, only after 1992 did chinese scientists and engineers toured a moribund Soviet Union and stole or bought any interesting advanced technology they could fin, all the way from Varyag to Soyuz including the Su-27.
Before the Tien An Men bloodbath of 1989, however, China hoped to get more advanced aircraft technology, not from Russia or URSS, but from Grumman - from the United States. The slaughter and the following economic backlash and embargo really ruined China hope. They were kind of lucky enough the soviet Union collapsed and the newborn Russia was willing to sell them advanced technologies.
In the scenario you imagine, since the soviet Union does not collapse, China only hope remainswith Grumman, and this is tied to Tian An Men slaughter happening - or not. If it happens, then China is twice screwed.
Hence they are probably stuck with J-8 and J-7 for many years to come. Although they might create a new fighter type, it probably suffers from a lack of advanced avionics, radar and AAMs.
The chinese air force was well aware of this, and their mantra / dogma was: LARGE NUMBERS. The magazine I mentionned said they had 4000 to 7000 combat aircrafts, which is quite a huge numbers in the era of jet aircrafts.

I don't agree with this at all.

J-10 was under serious development in 1987 already. Avionics and AAM development was underway (both with Israeli assistance/tech transfer), the only missing piece would be the engine. Most likely the J-10 would have had a reverse engineered R-29 turbojet in initial series production, switching to indigenous WS-10 when ready.

Su-27 was a great way to bring the PLA overall quality up quickly, but I don't see the loss of such imports radically affecting the longer term trajectory.

Didn't knew about the Israel connection. Were / are the J-10 and Lavi related in any way, even indirectly ? Was it affected by Tienan Men butchering ?
Israel sold Python-3 AAMs, fly-by-wire and other avionics items. They sold at least one EL/M-2035 radar, but the J-10 radar was largely indigenous building on AN/APG-66 knowledge acquired during Peace Pearl. Israeli engineers were involved in J-10 to some degree in the initial stages - Chinese sources say they were only on the fly-by-wire and other systems, but the suspicion is that at least some wider Lavi information may have been passed over.
 

Archibald

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Israel helping the PRC.

Passing them technology from the Lavi, cancelled because of the F-16.

Lots of teeth must have cringed in Washington...
 

uk 75

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Another curious side effect of a continued Cold War after 1989 would have been the survival of the Apartheid State of South Africa. It had close ties with Israel but a cynical China might also have purchased SA tech.
 

kaiserd

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Another curious side effect of a continued Cold War after 1989 would have been the survival of the Apartheid State of South Africa. It had close ties with Israel but a cynical China might also have purchased SA tech.
Best not to go anywhere near that even with a very long barge poll.....
 

uk 75

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Another curious side effect of a continued Cold War after 1989 would have been the survival of the Apartheid State of South Africa. It had close ties with Israel but a cynical China might also have purchased SA tech.
Best not to go anywhere near that even with a very long barge poll...
 

uk 75

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No need to..There are numerous SA threads on this site for those interested in possible connections. A world with a continued Cold War after 1989 is an unpleasant place that we mercifully never experienced
 

Resister1976

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Western manufactures were queueing up to sell their wares to China before Tiananmen Square.
Grumman wanted to massively upgrade the F-7 and the F-8, Alenia wanted to upgrade the A-5 with modern MIL-1553 databuses and avionics as the A-5M, Thomson-CSF wanted to put a laser-rangefinder in the A-5K, HAECO upgraded the Y-7, McDonnell were building MD-90 series airliners, the French sold a bunch of naval armaments and radars, Rolls-Royce selling them Spey.

Its possible that Western influence would have been much greater, its not in the realms of fantasy to imagine a programme like the Japanese F-2 with General Dynamics had the path of technical cooperation continued on that trend, of course its possible the ideological differences between the USSR and China might have thawed anyway and allowed more technical transfer.
The F-2 analogy intrigues me because I saw on another forum an F-16 in PLAAF colors, so maybe we have a scenario to flesh out of that. Shenyang had a design called the J-13 which looked very close to the F-16 and used the same planeform configuration, and they were license building the Spey for the JH-7 at the time. China needs a modern fighter to compete with Soviet 4th generation fighters so Shenyang and General Dynamics begin collaborating on what is basically a license built F-16 but with a more powerful Spey derivative (afterburning TF41?) in place of the F100. It is advanced enough to modernize their forces significantly and be competitive with Soviet designs but isn't large and advanced enough to threaten the Japanese or other US allies. Maybe someone can make a model or drawing of this armed with Aspides and Python-3s, and I don't remember where but I read that the Reagan administration considered selling F-16s to China so it's not too implausible.
J-13 is not better than J-10,It needs a greater engine(greater than the AL-31F or F-110)
 

Pioneer

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France sold Super Frelons and Dauphin helicopters, Exocet missiles and a whole bunch of other military stuff, indeed... (Roland missiles ?)
Don't know about 'Roland missiles' Archibald, but I know they got Crotale missiles and launchers (both in land and naval variants) from someone.

Regards
Pioneer
 
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jsport

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RAND’s Jeffrey Engstrom refers to informatized forces as “fully information-networked forces,” which is a convenient shorthand for the topic. It is helpful, however, to understand this modernization in the context of “information conflict” (again from Cihai):

The primary operational methods [of information conflict] include information warfare, precision fires warfare, network warfare, unconventional warfare, and space warfare, among others. Its outstanding features are: system vs. system; information confrontation as the focus of both sides; a battle carried out in multiple dimensions including land, sea, air, space, electromagnetic spectrum, and cyberspace; integrated cross-services and arms joint operations as the basic operational form; mainly nonlinear, non-contact operations; high attack accuracy; rapidly progressing conflict; integration of operational actions, command, and support; etc.
 
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Grey Havoc

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On the other hand, the PRC is very ruthless indeed. It is quite likely there will be few if any restrictive ROE's. The Soviets will probably look like having been unalloyed saints in comparison.
 

Foo Fighter

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The Taliban think they have won, obviously, thing is that if the PRC become involved it will as a proving ground for technology and tactics likely to demonstrate to the world that they mean business in being world leaders rather than merely retaking Taiwan.

Not going to end well either way.
 

Grey Havoc

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Latest reports seem to indicate that both the PRC and Russia intend to recognise the 'Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan', i.e. the Taliban, as the official government of Afghanistan in the near future.
 

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In this scenario, would it be plausible that WZ1224 development would continue, it would be interesting to see how it would evolve compared to the T-72 derived WZ123 that became the Type 98/99.
iu
 

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Found this interesting tidbit on the French wiki page about the Rafale:

"The People's Republic of China inquired about the Rafale in 1996-1997, a sign of interest that was ignored 290 . In 1996, Chinese officials visited Dassault's facilities, then representatives of the French firm and Snecma went to Beijing the following year. In fact, China would have been especially interested in the Snecma M88 turbojets an alternative to the Russian 291 engines. In addition, following the repression of the Tian'anmen protests, the Western powers decreed an embargo still in force. military exports to China, which would have made the sale of Rafales to that country very unlikely."

In a continued Cold War scenario, would this sale be more likely to occur?

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dassault_Rafale#Intérêt_sans_suite
 
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T. A. Gardner

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One of the often-overlooked aspects of this is the US inadvertently gave China the guy that would allow them to internally develop ballistic missiles in 1955. This was Qian Xuesen. He was a pre-WW 2 graduate of MIT and then Cal Tech where he was recruited during WW 2 to work on rocket projects as part of the GALCIT team. He also worked on the Manhattan project.

Post WW 2 during one of the early "Red scares" he was accused, without really much if any evidence, of being a communist based in large part on his ethnicity. The US stripped him of his security clearances and removed him from all of his work. He then tried to leave the country to return to China and was arrested and held without charges for five years before being exchanged for US POW's China held during the Korean war.

In 1955 he returned to China where he was instrumental in setting up and developing China's nuclear bomb program and ballistic missile program. He recruited several relatives in the US who were aerospace and rocketry engineers as well. He eventually rose to become a Central Committee member is remembered in China as the father of their nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

Without this key, and major, blunder by the US, it is likely that China's nuclear and ballistic missile programs would be 10 to 20 years behind where they are today.
 

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