J-16D "Roaring Wolf" Electronic Attack
The Zhuhai Air Show kicked off on 28 September 2021, and China's new domestic electronic fighter J-16D arrived in Zhuhai for its first public appearance and static display. The J-16D electronic warfare aircraft is an electronic warplane modified on the basis of the J-16. It has sufficient internal space and a large number of external attachment points, which can meet the internal modification of a large number of electronic warfare equipment and various types of electronic warfare. The mounting of the war pod can also ensure the ability to carry the necessary air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, which is even stronger than the US Navy's EA-18G (Growler).
The J-16D variant — the “D” in the designation comes from the Chinese word for “electronic,” diànzi — made its first flight on December 18, 2015. The J-16D is expected to be equipped with a large amount of electronic warfare equipment and still be able to carry necessary air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, in addition to a wide selection of electronic warfare pods, the magazine said, noting that the large payload space could make the J-16D even stronger than the US Navy's EA-18G.
Electronic warfare aircraft is a special operations platform that specializes in electronic reconnaissance, jamming, and attack on enemy radar search, guidance systems and radio communication systems. Its main task is to prevent the enemy's air defense system from performing its due role through electronic interference and other means, and to cover the existing forces to successfully perform various tactical or strategic strike tasks. Due to the uniqueness of the mission and positioning of this type of special operations platform, it enjoys a very high position in the construction of the equipment system under the background of modern warfare. Electronic warfare aircraft, like special aircraft models such as early warning aircraft and tankers, are "multipliers" of modern air combat forces.
The importance of tactical-grade electronic warplanes such as the F-15G and F-16G cannot be ignored. From the perspective of the U.S. Air Force's experience, it is these tactical-level electronic warplanes that often accompany combat on the front line. Due to the higher dispatch rate, lower cost, greater number and more flexible organization and deployment, coupled with the advantages of platform mobility, tactical-level electronic warplanes can perform tasks with various tactical aircraft. The tactical electronic warplanes that kill on the front line can not only guarantee the electronic warfare initiative of the formation, but also go forward to hunt down enemy radar equipment and suppress air defense systems.
Tactical electronic warfare aircraft are mainly modified from fighters or attack aircraft. They can interfere with the radar of the enemy's air defense system while using precision guided weapons such as anti-radiation missiles to accurately damage targets. There is a big challenge with the transformation of electronic warfare. It is difficult to convert medium-sized aircraft into professional electronic warfare aircraft due to insufficient carrying capacity and airframe space. Only a dual-engine medium-sized fighter can achieve a combat capability similar to that of the US E/A-18G Growler electronic fighter.
On 30 July 2017, in the military parade to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the army in Zhurihe, the gorgeous three-plane formation of J-20 fighter jets attracted the attention of the people of the whole country, and also eclipsed the other advanced fighters on the same scene. Under the high attention of the J-20, many people didn’t even notice the J-16 fighter that followed the J-20 for the first time in the military parade, let alone the J-20 in the commentary of the fighter echelon. The -16 fighter mentioned the feature of "significantly improved electronic warfare capabilities, and thus has a'combat power multiplier'.
Tthe J-16 itself is the domestic version of the Russian Sukhoi Su-30MKK. The two-seater J-16 is roughly the same size as the American F-15E fighter-bomber, and it uses new avionics to replace the original Russian products, including active electronically scanned array radar (AESA), which are currently the most advanced fighter radar technology.
The method of distinguishing J-16 is very simple: the nose has no IRST, no cannon, and the wingtip short baseline lateral sensor integrated antenna is relatively smooth. Compared with the same type antenna of the high-tech family and the J-15D, the J-16 has four pieces. The blade antenna has been integrated into a long strip antenna.
There are multiple new antennas and electronic warfare devices on the fuselage. The nose radome of the J-16D has been redesigned and may be suitable for more advanced AESA radars. Most importantly, the new electronic warfare pod is installed on the wingtip, similar to the American ALQ-218 electronic support measurement pod installed on the EA-18G "Growler" wingtip. These are electromagnetic sensors that can analyze the radar frequency and help determine the location of the radar transmitting equipment. These data are very useful for jamming radars and targeting them for destruction. In addition, it will carry two to three jamming pods under the wings and fuselage, each pod optimized for different radar frequencies. Of course, these jammers can also use AESA technology.
The American EA-18G “Growler” electronic attack fighter is a special fighter, which is specifically used to interfere with and possibly detect and destroy enemy radar equipment, preventing it from guiding deadly missiles used to strike friendly aircraft. This mission is called the Suppression of the Enemy’s Air Defense (SEAD). Basically, if a modern air force wants to attack an opponent with strong air defense capabilities, it needs SEAD-capable equipment to avoid unbearable losses.
The Growler is based on the improvement of the F-18F "Super Hornet" fighter, which is faster than the jam platform based on transport and attack aircraft, has more maneuverability, and can be fully armed. This allows the Growlers to provide additional support for attack missions, because Growlers can keep up with the fighters they escort, and it is possible to get closer to the enemy's air defense system.
The wingtip of the Growler is equipped with the ALQ-218V(2) tactical receiver pod specially designed for it by Northrop Grumman. Passive laterally through the principle of interference, with the ALQ-99 tactical interference mounted under the wing. The pod and active phased array radar are accurately positioned to complete situational awareness.
The same is true for China. The J-16 uses wingtip sensors to find direction, and new pods are used for jamming. The most likely scenario is that it comes back to carry 2-3 jamming pods under the wings and fuselage, each pod is aimed at a different frequency radar. Moreover, the Su-27 platform has better flight performance than F-18 platform. The key task is to make up lessons for the Air Force-these advanced fighters under the J-16 system will greatly compensate for the lack of auxiliary aircraft and the inferiority of bombers, and lay a solid foundation for the Air Force far beyond neighboring countries in the 2020s.
Even with the largest electronic warfare equipment, J-16 will make it free to carry weapons in 6 of its 12 external points. At present, there are three different types of anti-radiation missiles (ARM) in our country, which are designed for long-range enemy radars. The CM-103 missile has a range of 100 kilometers. It is accurate enough to hit naval and ground targets with an 80 kg warhead. There is also a locally-developed copy of the Russian Kh-31P missile, the YJ-91, which has a slightly longer range and also has an anti-ship function. Finally, there is the LD-10 ARM missile from the PL-12 air defense missile. Of course, the J-16D can carry most of the other weapons that a basic fighter can carry.
The two-seater version of the J-15 carrier-based aircraft currently equipped on two Chinese aircraft carriers seems to be able to undergo similar upgrades to become the J-15SD. However, because the Chinese aircraft carrier adopts a skid-jump deck design, the effective load of the J-15 fighter is limited. However, it is not clear whether the improvement plan of the J-16D will be adopted.
The J-16D is equipped with a new reconnaissance warning system receiver, which can manage and control the airborne electronic jamming pod to "track and aim jamming" multiple radar electromagnetic signal sources. This is also the most advanced one in the world at this stage. For this kind of airborne tactical reconnaissance and warning system, currently only China and the United States have the ability to independently develop and produce. In addition, in order to ensure more effective interference suppression, the J-16D electronic fighter will use a new generation of high-power airborne tactical interference pod.
Compared with China’s previous electronic jamming pods, the new tactical jamming pods are larger in weight and volume, and the coverage frequency will be further expanded to 0.05 to 20 GHz, and the transmission power will also be increased from the existing 30 to 40 kilowatts. To approach 100 kilowatts, the effective interference distance will be increased from tens of kilometers at the current stage to more than 150 kilometers. In addition to the new tactical jamming pod, the J-16D electronic warplane will also be equipped with a new tactical communication jamming and suppression system, capable of deceiving, jamming, and suppressing land-based, sea-based, and air-based communication systems (even data link systems). The ability of this is also groundbreaking in the Chinese Air Force’s tactical electronic warplanes.
In addition to electronic jamming capabilities, it is reported that the J-16D electronic warplane also has strong anti-radiation capabilities. It can mount advanced "Eagle Strike"-91 anti-radiation missiles, and the combat capabilities of China's new anti-radiation missiles have greatly surpassed the "Eagle"-91 anti-radiation missiles. At the same time, due to the reduction in size and weight, the number of J-16Ds that can be mounted is larger, which can be called the "perfect match" for its anti-radiation warfare.
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