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Kongjing-2000 (KJ-2000) Mainring

The KJ-2000 is the latest Chinese early warning aircraft, comprised of domestically designed electronics and radar installed on a modified Ilyushin IL-76 airframe. The KJ-2000 system is based on the Russian A-50 airframe, and was said to use an indigenous phased array radar. It was reported that the system can track 60-100 aerial targets simultaneously at 400km away.

As early as 1992, China began talks with Russia about purchasing the Beriev A-50 (NATO codename: Mainstay) plane, the AWACS variant of the Ilyushin IL-76 military transport aircraft. Subsequently, talks involved acquisition of an Israeli radar system. Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) was marketing its Phalcon airborne early warning (AEW) system to China in competition with the British defense firm GEC-Marconi. The three-way negotiations that began in 1994 considered four AEW aircraft for $1 billion. It was reported in November 1995 that the Russian foreign ministry had vetoed a deal where IAI would rebuild an Ilyushin aircraft into an AEW&C aircraft for China. In 1996 China, Russia, and Israel reached initial agreement on a $250 million deal to supply one AEW aircraft to the PLAAF by installing an Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) Phalcon phased-array radar with 360 degree coverage on a A-50 plane. Tel Aviv and Beijing signed an agreement on purchasing the Falcon radar system, which China insisted system should be fitted onto Russian Il-76 aircraft. The Phalcon's triangular radar array would be mounted on the rear quarter fuselage of the Il-76 to provide full 360 degree scan coverage. China already had six such aircraft as well as a service base for them.

In May 1997 it was reported that Russia and Israel agreed to fulfill jointly an order from China to develop and deliver an early warning system. Israel and Russia reached agreement on modifying one IL-76, as a Beriev A-50I, for $250 million, with the option of three more AWACS for a total cost of $1 billion. Russia secured about 20 percent of the deal. The first Russian aircraft was expected to arrive in Israel for refitting in 1998. But Russian reluctance to provide technical specifications for the Il-76 delayed the program. China reportedly ordered one Phalcon for $250 million, which entailed retrofitting a Russian-made Ilyushin-76 cargo plane [also incorrectly reported as a Beriev A-50 Mainstay] with advanced Elta electronic, computer, radar and communications systems. Beijing was expected to acquire several PHALCON AEW systems, and reportedly could buy at least three more [and possibly up to eight] of these systems, the prototype of which was planned for testing beginning in 2000. In October 1999 Russia finally transferred an IL-76 to Israel for the installation of the Phalcon AEW radar. By May 2000, Israel had nearly completed work on the aircraft.

The Phalcon deal became an increasingly controversial issue between the United States and Israel. In 2000, the Clinton Administration voiced stronger objections to the sale and urged Israel to cancel the sale of the Phalcon, saying it is a system comparable to the U.S. AWACS and could collect intelligence and guide aircraft from 250 miles away. Finally, in July 2000 the United States pressured Israel to back out of the $1 billion agreement to sell China four Phalcon phased-array radar systems. The cancellation of the more capable PHALCON program forced Beijing to pursue other alternatives, to include the possible acquisition of A-50 MAINSTAY AWACS aircraft from Russia. Beijing concluded a deal to buy four A-50 Mainstays, first phase of program for up to eight of the aircraft. Eight would allow for two aircraft on continuous 24-hour patrol.

Following the humiliation of the cancelled A-50I/Phalcon deal, China turned to indigenous solutions. China has been developing its own indigenous airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft since 2000, following the cancellation of the A-50I AWACS project. The Phalcon radar and other electronic systems were taken off from the unfinished A-50I, and the airframe was handed to China via Russia in 2002. Modifications on the A-50I airframe began in late 2002 to install the Chinese-made airborne radar system at Xi'an Aircraft Industry Co. (XAC). The aircraft made its first flight in November 2003. The aircraft, based on the Russian Beriev A-50 (NATO codename: Mainstay) airframe but fitted with a Chinese made phased array radar, designated Kongjing-2000 (KJ-2000).

The Chinese AWACS has a unique phased array radar (PAR) carried in a round radome. Unlike the US AWACS aircraft, which rotate their rotodomes to give a 360 degree coverage, the radar antenna of the Chinese AWACS does not rotate. Instead, three PAR antenna modules are placed in a triangular configuration inside the round radome to provide a 360 degree coverage.

Detailed information regarding the Chinese AWACS is unknown, but it is estimated that the aircraft is comparable to the Russian A-50 in general flight performance. The Chinese-made KJ-2000 radar system could be similar in capability to the IAI Phalcon, but may not be as capable as the latter. The Phalcon system could track up to 60~100 targets at the same time and guide a dozen fighters in all-weather, day and night operations.

The multi-function three-dimensional pulse-Doppler radar was developed by NII (Nanjing Electronic Technology Research Institute) is designed to detect and track airborne and surface targets. It operates in the frequency range of 1200-1400 Mhz. The antenna system consists of three phased arrays, located in disk with a diameter of 14 meter (near the Russian by an AWACS command and control and-50 cone diameter 9 meters, similar Indian system "Falcon" - 11 meter). Each phased array has a field of view every 120 . Maximum range of detection of air targets is 470 km.

The Chinese AWACS is based on the airframe of the Russian A-50 AWACS aircraft, which was developed and manufactured by the Beriev Aircraft Research and Engineering Complex Joint Stock Company based at Taganrog in the Rostov Region of Russia. The A-50's airframe was developed from the llyushin IL-76MD military transport aircraft manufactured by the Ilyushin Aviation Complex Joint Stock Company based in Moscow. The most distinctive difference on the A-50 airframe is the removal of the 'glass-in' nose of the IL-76MD.

The A-50 carries out patrol missions at an altitude of 5,000m to 10,000m. The patrol service ceiling is 10,000m. The maximum flight range of the aircraft is 5,000km and the flight endurance is 7 hours 40 minutes. At a range of 2,000m, the A-50 can remain on patrol for up to 1 hour 25 minutes. The photos of the KJ-2000 indicate that the aircraft has an aerial refuelling probe in its nose. If the aircraft can be refuelled by the Russian-made IL-78 Midas tanker, its flight endurance and effectiveness could be further increased. This will significantly increase the range and flight endurance of the aircraft.

Unconfirmed reports claimed that so far two KJ-2000s (one based on A-50I, one converted from a PLAAF/CUA IL-76) have been delivered to the PLAAF for operational evaluation and tests. A total of four aircraft may eventually be built, either on new A-50s purchased from Russia, or directly converted locally from the existing IL-76s in service with the PLAAF.

The installation of equipment at the IL-76td began in late 2002 aircraft by Xian aircraft industries (Xian Aircraft Industry Co.). The first flight of an airplane KJ-2000 made in November 2003. All four machines will be equipped with this type. The last to be introduced into service the Chinese AIR FORCE until the end of 2007.

In mid-2004, the PLA decided to deploy a separate Regiment command and control aircraft. Headquarters of unfurled in Nanjing (Jiangsu Province). In 2005, adopted the regiment received two KJ-2000. In addition, it is planned to include aircraft command and control detachment based on KJ-200 Y-8 aircraft. According to the Chinese side, experts from Russia and Israel did not participate in the development of hardware and equipment of the aircraft, but its appearance and some specifications indicate using the Russian and Israeli experience.




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