On Sale: The WMD-7 Targeting Pod is displayed by the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corp. at the 2012 Zhuhai Airshow. (Wendell Minnick/Staff)
TAIPEI — China is confident enough with its fighter jet targeting pods to start pushing them for export at defense trade shows.
At February’s Singapore Airshow, the WMD-7 Targeting Pod was once again presented as an export product at China’s pavilion for its national aviation export agency, the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corp. (CATIC).
CATIC displayed the WMD-7 at the 2012 Zhuhai Airshow, and mock-ups have appeared at the 2013 Dubai Airshow and the 2010 and 2012 Farnborough shows.
Another Chinese product beginning to make an appearance on the export market is the Type OC2 laser/infrared-targeting pod produced by the Norinco Group/Harbin Jiancheng Group. The OC2 made its first appearance at the 2012 Zhuhai Airshow.
“That China can market two basically similar optical/infrared targeting pods is a result of their 1998 defense logistics reform decision to invest in a broadly redundant but competitive military production sector,” said Richard Fisher, a senior fellow of Asian military affairs at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.
This means that China will have a “better chance of offering the lowest price when it competes with Russian and Western systems,” he said. “We have seen this work for the Chinese in Turkey’s recent surface-to-air missile competition.”
Brochures and CATIC officials do not identify the manufacturing origin of the WMD-7, but Fisher said he thinks the pod is the product of the Luoyang Optoelectric Technology Development Center (LOEC) in Henan province.
LOEC became famous after Google Earth revealed images in 2011 of a full-scale mock-up of the now-retired F-117 stealth fighter.
Also known as the 612 Institute, LOEC is well known for its air-to-air missiles and precision-guided bomb systems, including the LS-6 Thunder Stone precision-guided glide bomb, the TY-90 surface-to-air and air-to-air missile system, and the PL-5, PL-9 and PL-12 (SD-10) air-to-air missiles.
The WMD-7 is outfitted on the Pakistani JF-17 Thunder fighter, codeveloped with China’s Chengdu Aircraft Corp. and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex.
The WMD-7 has also been spotted on the Nanchang Q-5 ground-attack aircraft, but there have been no confirmed exports outside of Pakistan.
CATIC officials indicated the pod used an integrated system of infrared and TV cameras and laser sensors that allow it to search for, identify, track and designate targets on the ground or sea surface.
The Norinco OC2 uses a midwave front-look infrared targeting system with a range of 20 kilometers and an illuminating range of 15 kilometers.
Less is known about the OC2, but Fisher said the pod is a derivative of a “number of Norinco optics and targeting lines.
“Luoyang and Norinco both market competing families of precision air-to-ground laser- and satellite-guided munitions and their associated targeting pods,” he said. “Both targeting pods are subsidized by their being used by the People’s Liberation Army.”
Earlier variants of both pods have been seen on the Xian-built JH-7 fighter-bomber and the Q-5. ■