Pubblicato in: Cina, Economia e Produzione Industriale, Geopolitica Militare, Geopolitica Mondiale

Cina. C919 ed An-225. Si sviluppa l’industria aeronautica cinese.

Giuseppe Sandro Mela.

2017-05-21.

c919-rollout-web

Dalla Cina sono arrivate due importanti novità circa la loro aeronautica: sono due notizie strategiche.

La prima novità consiste nel fatto che il 5 maggio ha fatto il suo volo inaugurale il C919, il primo aereo di linea di intera progettazione e costruzione cinese. Il C919 è un bireattore con autonomia di 5,500 kilometri, velocità di crociera 828 km/h, 168 passeggeri nella sua versione base. È stato progettato principalmente per soddisfare le necessità interne, ma nulla vieta il pensare anche al mercato globale.

Questo aereo segna l’ingresso della Cina nel ristretto novero dei produttori di aerei di linea. Se tutto dovesse andare come da programma, il C919 potrebbe conquistarsi dapprima il mercato cinese interno, quindi essere un temibile competitore sul mercato internazionale. Uno dei suoi punti di forza sarebbe il costo più che dimezzato rispetto agli aviogetti concorrenti, consumi nettamente inferiori alla norma attuale, riferita scarsa necessità di manutenzione.

È il primo grande aereo di linea, come detto, costruito in Cina: ma i programmi cinesi si articolano ampiamente nel tempo, fino a coprire l’intera gamma. È prevista anche una versione di tipo militare.

La seconda novità lascia sconcertati. La Cina ha rilevato i progetti relativi all’An-124 ed all’An-225. Sono aerei da trasporti di progettazione e costruzione russa. Il primo è un quadrimotore turboventola per il trasporto strategico che volando alla velocità di crociera di 850 km/h può trasportare 150 tonnellate per circa 5,000 kilometri. Il secondo è un esamotore turbofan che ad una velocità di crociera i 860 km/h può trasportare 250 tonnellate di materiali per 15,000 kilometri.

«In 2016, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AICC), a Chinese state-owned aerospace and defense company, signed a cooperation agreement with Antonov for the An-225 program. If it goes through as planned, the skies could soon be flooded by a fleet of Chinese built An-225s.»

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«This aircraft, when modernised, could give China a heavy lift capability that surpasses any other nation in the world – perhaps even greater than that of the US military.

According to Zhang, the An-225 would be the centrepiece of a hyper ambitious plan to add 1,000 heavy lift aircraft over the next 10 years.

Heavy lift is not the only capability they’re after though.»

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I piani dei cinesi hanno sempre quel che di grandioso che solo la visione strategica di lungo termine conferisce all’operato umano.

Punto primo.

Forse è questo il cuore della notizia riportata, che propone un aspetto di fondo della concezione di governo dei popoli.

In Occidente, è stato lungamente dibattuto il bilanciamento tra la necessità di rinnovare la dirigenza governativa e la durata dell’incarico conferito dal suffragio elettorale. Se un incarico di breve durata consente un più rapido turnover al governo, un incarico più lungo corre il serio rischio di conferire troppo potere ai governanti. Il caso francese è da manuale: inizialmente la presidenza aveva durata settennale, rinnovabile. Quindi abbassarono la durata dell’incarico governativo a cinque anni.

Sta di fatto che anche un incarico settennale non consente di impostare piani strategici, l’arco temporale dei quali è ben oltre il decennio. Questo è un severo handicap dei sistemi elettorali occidentali.

Punto secondo.

Nessun governo di nuova nomina può esercitare agevolmente il proprio mandato senza un concomitante sistema di spoils system. Gli stati moderni sono altamente complessi e sarebbe ingenuo pensar che un nuovo eletto possa conoscerne l’intimo funzionamento se non dopo un certo quale lasso di tempo. Non solo: da molti punti di vista la vera struttura portante dello stato è il suo corpo burocratico. Ma sarebbe altrettanto ingenuo ritenere che il solo rinnovo a livello governativo senza un concomitante rinnovo dei burocrati possa consentire un corretto funzionamento.  Da queto punto di vista meramente funzionale, sarebbe utile che gli stati occidentali si dotassero di un efficiente sistema di spoils system,sulla falsariga di quello americano. Un apparato burocratico ostile e, sopratutto, nominato a vita, è il miglior antidoto possibile ad ogni iniziativa strategica: la burocrazia è per definizione un forza statica, non dinamica.

Punto terzo.

Il sistema politico e burocratico cinese ha sicuramente lati negativi e positivi: sicuramente è alieno all’attuale mentalità europea. Gode però della caratteristica di essere efficiente. Questo è un aspetto che un giorno o l’altro anche gli occidentali dovranno ben affrontare. Se sono importanti i principi fondamentali, altrettanto importante è costruire un sistema funzionante: un sistema inefficiente rinnega nei fatti i principi ai quali è improntato. In Cina virtualmente sono assenti le elezioni politiche: il vero agone politico è all’interno del partito comunista cinese, una sorta di scuola mandarnica adattata alla necessità dei tempi. Scuola durissima e severamente meritocratica, che nulla cede alla emotività mediatica.

Punto quarto.

L’aspetto militare non dovrebbe essere sottovalutato. La Cina non dispone al momento di aerei militari da trasporto progettati e costruiti in Cina. È evidente che i militari cinesi stiano cercando di risolvere questa grave mancanza, e la versione militare del C919 potrebbe già dare una ragionevole risposta per i problemi locoregionali. Tuttavia, sembrerebbe essere di maggiore interesse l’attenzione posta al progetto An-124 ed a quello An-225. Questi sono aerei da trasporto strategico, di progettazione e costruzione particolarmente complessa e costosa. Un solo esemplare arriva a costare oltre i cento milioni. Sembrerebbe essere irragionevole imbarcarsi in un simile progetto se non in vista di un allargamento dei propri interessi strategici militare a tutto il mondo. E questa sarebbe una mutazione di estremo interesse mondiale. Forse, all’interno di tutte le notizie sull’argomento, questa sembrerebbe essere la principale.

Punto Quinto.

L’intero Occidente è drammaticamente privo di progetti strategici: sembrerebbe essere diventato incapace di guardare il futuro per dominarlo. Nutre una filosofia di vita immanente, che sembrerebbe vivere solo l’attimo fuggente. Celebra i fasti di un welfare state insostenibile, attanagliato tra l’obbligo a mantenere gli impegni assunti e l’impossibilità di garantirne di equivalenti alle nuove generazioni. A ciò si aggiunga l’oneroso peso di debiti sovrani eccessivi e bilanci squilibrati vero il mantenimento del welfare state: gli stati occidentali hanno severe difficoltà a sostenere economicamente progetti strategici di largo respiro.

Ma senza progetti strategici proiettati nel futuro si inaridiscono anche quelli attuali arrivati a maturità. Questo citato è esempio da manuale. La Comac sottrarrà sicuramente mercato sia ad Airbus sia a Boeing, e molto verosimilmente potrebbe anche soppiantarle in un futuro nemmeno poi troppo lontano.

Significativo il titolo di Cinaforum:

Primo volo per il C919, decolla la sfida cinese a Boeing e Airbus.


Cnn. 2017-05-05. China’s 1st big passenger jet completes maiden flight

China’s first large jetliner has successfully completed its maiden flight, a key moment in the country’s push to challenge the U.S. and Europe as a global manufacturer.

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The C919, China’s first domestically designed and built large airliner, took off Friday afternoon from Shanghai Pudong International Airport into hazy skies with a five-person crew aboard. The jet landed one hour and 19 minutes later after a seemingly uneventful first trial.

With the flight, China joins the ranks of the few nations that have developed homegrown large airliners: the U.S., Russia, Brazil, Canada, the U.K., France and Germany.

Made by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac), the 168-seat C919 is roughly the same size as Airbus’s A320 and Boeing’s 737-800, which are the most popular airliners in the world.

The C919’s maiden flight was watched by people around the globe, including at least 2 million on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.

Comac also offered an unprecedented look inside the maiden flight of a new airliner. The company streamed live images from the jet’s cockpit looking over the shoulder of its test pilots as they performed gentle maneuvers off the coast. Neither Boeing nor Airbus has ever provided a live view of the cockpit on a first flight.

The Chinese jet’s first flight is the biggest and most visible milestone in its development. But it still has a long way to go before it’s carrying passengers and competing with its U.S. and European competitors.

The start of aerial testing kicks off months or years of grueling certification tests, and meeting safety standards might require design changes. Comac will also need to win the trust of airlines in China and elsewhere by proving the jet can operate efficiently and reliably on scheduled flights.

However, the milestone marks another key achievement for China on its ascent to challenging the west and cultivating its aerospace ambitions. The country is already an adept designer of military aircraft, but has sought to catch up to Boeing in the U.S. and Airbus in Europe in manufacturing civilian airliners.

So far it’s been slow-going. The country’s state-owned airlines first signed up to buy the jet in 2010, and it was originally supposed to enter service in 2016. The prototype wasn’t unveiled until November 2015, and the project has been beset by technical delays as China learns the ropes of airliner development.

Comac, a state-run enterprise, has partnered with western suppliers for nearly all the jet’s major systems to share technology and learn how to mass produce an airliner.

The C919’s main customers will be China’s domestic airlines. China Eastern Airlines will be the first carrier to operate the C919 when it completes testing and secures approval from China’s aviation regulator.

China is on track to surpass the U.S. by 2030 as the world’s largest commercial aviation market. Chinese airlines are buying hundreds of Boeing and Airbus jets to grow their fleets.

Boeing estimates that the country will need a trillion dollars worth of new airplanes over the next two decades, including more than 5,100 of the same size as the C919.


Bbc. 2017-05-05. The world’s biggest plane may have a new mission.

Tucked away in a small section of a Soviet era air base on the outskirts of Kiev is the flagship aircraft of the legendary Antonov design bureau. A one-off masterpiece of engineering designed and built during the 1980s in the waning days of the USSR.

The aircraft, designated the An-225, is the biggest to ever grace the Earth. It’s so large that the length of its cargo hold is longer than the Wright brothers’ first flight, from take-off to landing.

Now 30 years old, and recently upgraded to give it another 20 years’ service, the plane rarely takes to the skies anymore. Instead, it sits stagnant under an enormous steel arch. However, a crew of dedicated Antonov employees still periodically tend to the An-225. Its sporadic use has nothing to do with its age. It’s grounded because there is simply little demand for its highly specialised and relatively costly service. Although the plane, nicknamed ‘Mriya’ (‘Dream’) in Ukrainian, is in fine condition, there are very few jobs that call for something so large . And the jobs need to be urgent; if you want to use the An-225 it will cost around $30,000 (£23,220) an hour.

In 2016, it spent just three months traversing the globe on two lengthy deployments. The remainder of the time, it sat here at the Gostomel airport, once a top-secret flight testing airfield for Antonov.

Originally built as a transport for the Soviet Union’s Buran space shuttle, the An-225 was forced to find new purpose as a cargo carrier after the USSR collapsed, says Alexander Galunenko, the first man to fly the plane.

“When the USSR collapsed, the programme was shut down and the financing was closed as the need for this plane vanished,” says Galunenko. He first flew the An-225 on 21 December 1988, after over a decade’s service as a Soviet test pilot.

Galunenko fondly remembers the bewilderment of first taking the behemoth across the world to visit the United States.

“We were invited to an aviation show in Oklahoma and the media reported that the largest aircraft in the world was coming so that attracted a mass of people,” he says.All of these people just assumed that the largest aircraft in the world was made by the Boeing company. We had to tell them it was made by Antonov, and they asked, ‘Where is Antonov from?’ We said, ‘It’s a company in Kiev’, so they asked us, ‘And what is Kiev?’ Well we told them ‘Kiev is in Ukraine’, and of course they asked, ‘But what is Ukraine?’”

The navigator of the flight eventually pulled out his maps and began to point out Ukraine to the many curious visitors. “He took a marker and circled Kiev to show them where it is,” laughs Galunenko. “We got to show our plane and give the Americans a geography lesson too.”

The plane is effectively an extension of its little brother, the An-124 ‘Ruslan’ – an aircraft rarely regarded as “little”, seeing as it’s the largest military transport in the world.

From a room adorned with scale models of every aircraft the company has built in its 71-year history, the lead engineer of the An-225 project, Nikolay Kalashnikov, tells BBC Future that he spent his entire professional life working for Antonov. But it was building the Mriya that was the pinnacle of his career.

“Today it’s hard to tell, but back then it was so impressive. It was just so difficult to imagine that such a big machine can fly,” says Kalashnikov.

Although the An-124 Ruslan was already an impressively sized cargo carrier at that time, Kalashnikov and his team set about modifying the structure to increase its maximum takeoff weight. They added two engines, rows of landing gear, extended the fuselage and redesigned the tail in order to meet the most important requirement, which was to ensure that the Buran space-shuttle and the Energia booster rocket could slide off the plane midflight and take off into space.

“It was possible to carry everything, the shuttle and all the elements of the rocket on the back of the aircraft,” says energetic CEO of Antonov Airlines, Mikhail Kharchenko, from his office at the Gostomel airport. “The idea hasn’t gone away. The United States is now working on an air-start programme.

At that time, the USSR’s space missions were run from what is now southern Kazakhstan, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. So the AN-225’s mission was to bring the booster rockets from Moscow and ferry the Buran itself to Baikonaur. They calculated that the AN-225 programme would be cheaper than building a freeway across two rivers and through the Urals just to move these parts, says Kalashnikov.

Kharchenko believes that the Mriya still has huge potential, despite its age, and it’s not just for its enormous cargo capacity. He thinks there’s still the chance to develop the An-225 into a proper in-air launch platform.

“Approximately 90% of the energy of the launch vehicle is spent getting up to an altitude of 10km (6.5 miles) ,” says the CEO. “If we take some spacecraft and put it on the Mriya’s back and fly it up to a height of 10km, then we can launch it into space from there. From the point of view of cost, the economic benefit is huge if you launch from a height of 10km.”

He admits it’s still going to take a little bit of refinement, but Kharchenko believes this is the best direction for his company’s flagship aircraft. And he’s not the only one.

In 2016, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AICC), a Chinese state-owned aerospace and defense company, signed a cooperation agreement with Antonov for the An-225 program. If it goes through as planned, the skies could soon be flooded by a fleet of Chinese built An-225s.

“The initial idea and early stage research of the An-225 started in 2009,” the president of AICC, Zhang Youshengtells BBC Future. “The official contact with Antonov began in 2011, and then from 2013 to 2016 was the acceleration phase of this project.”

The Chinese company isn’t interested in purchasing the existing airworthy An-225. They have spent the past several years studying the feasibility of modernising the only other An-225, an unfinished airframe that has sat inside a hangar at Antonov’s giant corporate campus in downtown Kyiv for the past 30 years. This aircraft, when modernised, could give China a heavy lift capability that surpasses any other nation in the world – perhaps even greater than that of the US military.

According to Zhang, the An-225 would be the centrepiece of a hyper ambitious plan to add 1,000 heavy lift aircraft over the next 10 years.

Heavy lift is not the only capability they’re after though.

“The An-225 can be equipped with spacecraft to high altitude, and can launch commercial satellites at any height below 12,000m,” Zhang tells the BBC. “Its launch time is flexible, accurate, and can quickly send the satellite into intended orbit, which greatly reduces launch costs.”

The Chinese are aiming to make their way into the lucrative satellite launch industry, which doubled revenue from 2006 to 2015, according to figures provided by AICC.

The purchase agreement for the existing An-225 airframe is similar to China’s acquisition of an aircraft carrier hull from Ukraine nearly 20 years ago. That hull, originally commissioned by the Soviet Union, was rebuilt and modernised over two decades until it was declared ‘combat ready’ by China’s military in November 2016.

If the plan goes forward, the Mriya will have found new life flying the skies for China’s AICC, but Ukraine will have lost of a small but symbolic part of its aerospace industry. The men who built the plane have mixed feelings about the prospect of losing the programme to the Chinese.

“The Chinese want to buy from us this plane and there’s no harm in it, but of course no one wants to sell the aircraft,” says Kalashnikov. “The Mriya is not separable from Ukraine, it’s like our child, and it’s something our children, and our grandchildren can always be proud of.”

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