In his last days at the White House, President Donald Trump decided to include COMAC on the blacklist of Chinese military companies, which makes it banned from receiving US investments.
Manufacturer of the commercial jets ARJ21 and C919, COMAC does not theoretically develop any military products, but according to the US government, it is part of a Beijing strategy to use civilian corporations to obtain technology from the West for military purposes.
COMAC has already been accused of spying and reverse engineering on account of the LEAP turbofan engine, which equips the C919, and is reportedly being used in the development of the CJ-1000AX, an engine from the manufacturer AECC.
In February 2020, Trump had previously stated that the US government could ban Honeywell from supplying avionics for COMAC planes, in addition to CFM engines, a partnership between GE and Safran, France.
Dependence on the West Although the C919 and ARJ21 are aircraft more focused on the Chinese aviation market, the possible interruption in the supply of Western components threatens the future of the two programs. As much as China is advancing in the aerospace industry supply chain, the country still lacks reliable components.
The C919, for example, is extremely dependent on external suppliers such as Parker Aerospace (Flight and Fuel Control System), Weather Radar (Rockwell Collins), Tires (Michelin), Wing Anti-Frost System (Liebherr), Reversers engines (Aircelle) and flight recorders (GE).
According to a statement, the US Department of Defense “is determined to highlight and counter the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Military-Civil Fusion development strategy, which supports the modernization goals of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) by ensuring its access to advanced technologies and expertise acquired and developed by even those PRC companies, universities, and research programs that appear to be civilian entities.”
US companies will have until November to end any type of cooperation with COMAC. The airframer had been omitted from another ban list in December that included the other Chinese aircraft manufacturers operating in the defense market.