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China eyes S. America as defense customer

Nov. 20, 2012 at 2:35 PM   |   Comments

RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Defense manufacturers in Brazil and Chile face new competition from China's rapidly developing aviation and arms industries, showcased at the Zhuhai International Air Show.

The air show surprised Western military analysts with the diversity and variety of Chinese defense products that are destined for international markets at competitive prices.

Chinese arms manufacturers also demonstrated they had honed skills and removed elements that earned them notoriety for substandard production and unreliability, observers at the air show said.

The Zhuhai air show in China's southern Guangdong province ran Nov.13-18.

The appearance of a new, stronger Chinese presence was seen by Brazilian and Chilean exhibitors as an open challenge as China mounts a global marketing drive to find customers for its wares.

The air show was "full of surprises," DefenseNews.com said on its website. It said the show revealed to Western visitors "a variety of new weapon systems and international arms deals."

The Chinese Morning Whistle website said the show ended with "record deals" worth $11.8 billion.

The two main Latin American exhibitors, Brazil and Chile, didn't immediately report their reaction to the show's outcome. Brazil was represented by aircraft manufacturer Embraer and Chile sent representatives from its own annual defense show.

Defense manufacturers and arms dealers from across Latin America attended in small numbers.

China has been pushing its military hardware in Latin America in direct competition with Russia, France and Germany, the three major players who have sought to fill the vacuum created by the United States' long absence from the scene.

Although recent U.S. administration efforts have tried to reverse the trend, both U.S. officials and defense businesses are up against rivals who are willing to offer their weapons systems at discounted rates and easy payment terms.

Chinese defense manufacturers are keen to establish their military wares' reputation after many years of bad publicity caused by poor performance of previously supplied Chinese equipment.

The current focus of Chinese manufacturers is on targeting less developed countries that want to have new military equipment but do not have the resources to afford it. Chinese firms are keen to find customers and offer them special rates, industry sources said.

The Zhuhai air show, seen by China as its most important platform for showing off military and civilian aircraft technologies, attracted about 650 aviation and aerospace manufacturers from more than 35 countries, but China revealed many new brands in its displays.

The Aviation Industry Corp. of China revealed its supersonic L-15 Hunting Eagle advanced jet trainers.

Chinese manufacturers are also aiming to replace engines based on Russian and Ukrainian models that will give them an edge over rivals. AVIC has said it plans to develop the L-15 into a target drone, DefenseNews.com said.

AVIC's Guizhou Aircraft Co. showed off a modified FTC-2000 light multipurpose jet trainer that seems likely to compete with Embraer models that are trying to capture international markets from U.S. and European manufacturers.

Guizhou also displayed a new model for Harrier III unmanned aerial vehicle which can cruise for up to 24 hours.

The market for unmanned aerial vehicles and aerial systems is set to expand across Latin America. Several nations other than Brazil and Chile are exploring ways of producing their own UAVs as a substitute for fighter or surveillance aircraft they can't afford to buy.

This is an area where China aims to find customers with its own competitively priced hardware.

The Boeing Co., which set up aviation and defense technology partnerships in Brazil, is hoping to expand its role in the region but competition is getting tougher, analysts said.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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