KJ-500 Airborne Early Warning (AEW)
China has been working on building its own AEW&C jet since the 1960s with relatively little success, according to War is Boring. China has worked on five different types of models. "An air force with one of these planes can see far more — and at much longer ranges — than an enemy without one. But by any measure, five different types of AEW&Cs is a lot," War is Boring notes. The US Navy has one version, the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye, which is still in service today after being introduced in 1964; the US Air Force has one version, the Boeing E-3 Sentry.
Military enthusiasts online were buzzing about the new generation of aircraft “expected to form the backbone of the Chinese air force” as photos were posted in October 2014 on the popular military forum, www.cjdby.net. The anonymous user who uploaded the photos identified the models as a fourth-generation stealth fighter J20, Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&CS) aircraft KJ-500 and Y-20 large military transporter, and mentioned the photos “were taken recently at [Xian-based military-use airport] Yanliang Flight Centre.” Yanliang airfield is known as a place for PLA Air Force flight testing. Due to the sensitive issue of the photos’ release, foreign and domestic media alike have been unable to verify the user’s claims.
The KJ500, the latest generation of AEW&CS of aircraft, “is earmarked to provide early radar warnings to combat troops to give them an edge in potential future battles.” Military forums like www.cjdby.net have increasingly been an unofficial outlet for glimpses of sensitive weaponry usually firmly kept under wraps by military authorities.
Capable of tracking nearly 100 vehicles at once, in early 2015 the Chinese military launched its new airborne early warning and control aircraft (AEW&C), taking to the skies with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). It is similar to ZDK-03, sold to Pakistan by China, but with a new radar.
A slightly smaller version of an earlier four-turboprop plane, the KJ-500 is fixed with a phased-array radar developed by the Nanjing Research Institute of Electronic Technology. The array consists of three parts, all housed within a saucer-shaped dome atop the aircraft. That dome also features a satellite communications antenna, as well as two passive electronic intelligence arrays.
Built by the Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation, developers had also considered a tear-drop shaped dome, which would have allowed larger radar systems to be installed, but that plan was later scrapped.
AEW&C aircraft can carry out surveillance operations over both ground and sea-based targets. Air-based radar allows for better detection, and has enhanced abilities of distinguishing between friendly and hostile aircraft. The plane’s high altitude also makes it harder for enemies to spot.
Freighter "Y-9" has increased volume of fuel up to 20 tons, the practical flight range increased from 3,000 km to 5,000 km, and the flight of 8 hours. Also note that the length of the aircraft with 33 m was increased to 36 meters, making it possible to add additional equipment and personnel. With the rotation of staff, a large area of the aircraft allows the crew to rest during the tasks.
Satellite imagery of the Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation's airfield in Hanzhong, Shaanxi Province, show the company has produced eight fresh KJ-500 early warning aircraft, Defense News reported in February 2018. The images were captured in mid-December 2018. That brought the total number of KJ-500s in the People's Liberation Army-Air Force from four to 12, expert Andreas Rupprecht told the outlet. The large increase in KJ-500 aircraft demonstrates that the aircraft's design and technology is sufficiently developed to have become the standard for airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft for the PLA-AF and People's Liberation Army-Navy, said Rupprecht, author of the authoritative book "Modern Chinese Warplanes." Early warning aircraft allow an air force to track the locations of planes flying above and below the tracking airplane over a long range to detect incoming fighter jets or ocean-going vessels.
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