Buy, Build, or Steal: China's Quest for Advanced Military Aviation Technologies
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV FORT MCNAIR DC INST FOR NATIONAL STRATEGIC STUDIES
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Although China continues to lag approximately two decades behind the world s most sophisticated air forces in terms of its ability to develop and produce fighter aircraft and other complex aerospace systems, it has moved over time from absolute reliance on other countries for military aviation technology to a position where a more diverse array of strategies can be pursued. Steps taken in the late 1990s to reform China s military aviation sector demonstrated an understanding of the problems inherent in high-technology acquisition, and an effort to move forward. However, a decade later it remains unclear how effective these reforms have been. Where are the People s Liberation Army Air Force PLAAF and China s military aviation industry headed What obstacles must be overcome for China to join the exclusive ranks of those nations possessing sophisticated air forces and aviation industries capable of producing world-class aircraft This study identifies potential aviation technology development and procurement strategies, presents a general model of the options available to developing countries, and applies that model to explain Chinese procurement and aviation technology acquisition efforts over the last 60 years. The model articulates three main technology procurement avenues purchase buy, indigenous development build, and espionage steal, and three subavenues reverse engineering combining buysteal and build, coproduction combining buy and build, and codevelopment combining buy and build, with an emphasis on build.
- Military Aircraft Operations