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KLC-7 / KJ-600 / Air Police 600 - Carrier-Based Airborne Early Warning (AEW)

China is enhancing its airborne early warning capabilities, but by 2019 had too many designators chasing not enough aircraft - there are four different designators, some of which reference a single project.

The new KJ-600 early warning aircraft was revealed on 01 September 2020, and it was claimed that it could take away a key advantage of the US stealth fighter. China is building a carrier-based early warning aircraft with advanced early warning radar, which can detect stealth aircraft from a long distance. It is reported that the first-generation domestically-made carrier-based fixed-wing early warning aircraft of China's navy is the Air Police-600, which achieveed its first flight in August 2020. If the test flights succeeded, it meant that the navy will have the "clairvoyance and downwind ears" of the aircraft carrier fleet, and the aircraft carrier formation moving away thousands of kilometers away from the mainland coastline is no problem.

The pile of models on the Wuhan cement carrier has been around for a long time. On the Wuhan cement carrier with the same wind vane, a fixed-wing shipborne early warning aircraft has been parked, called the KJ 600. Although this is only a full-scale electromagnetic compatibility test model, it is said to be the first choice for aircraft carriers in the future. From the appearance point of view, JZY-01 and Air Police 600 seem to be somewhat similar, but there is actually no relationship between the two. One is improved on the basis of Yun 7, the main role is to verify the feasibility of the technology, and may even never fly to the sky. The other is to determine the technical feasibility, using a newly developed platform, equipped with the most advanced radar, the real guy for the 003 aircraft carrier. China announced it was developing a sixth AEW&C plane, the KJ-600. Pentagon experts believe that the KJ-600 is a clear signal that China is preparing a huge aircraft carrier combat formation, fighting away from its coast. The People's Liberation Army Naval Aircraft Carrier Battle Group is designed for offshore operations and therefore requires a more comprehensive AWACS. It is believed that the 603 Institute/XAC developed the first generation of shipborne AWACS in a size and configuration very similar to American E-2D.

China had been working on building its own AEW&C jet since the 1960s with relatively little success, according to War is Boring. China had 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.

Popular Science reported in July 2017 that China had developed the KJ-600, a carrier-based early warning and control plane that can help fill a critical gap against the US Navy. Built by the Xian Aircraft Corporation, the KJ-600 weighs 25-30 tons and is powered by twin-engine FWJ-6C turboprop engines. The KJ-600 is based on the experience gained from the earlier JZY-01 technology demonstrator. Due to its heavy weight and limited engine power, KJ-600 is designed to take off from the aircraft carrier using a catapult only.

The plane resembles Northrop Grumman's E-2 Hawkeye: a prop-driven, all-weather, carrier-capable early warning aircraft in service since the 1960s. The KJ-600 would be fitted an advanced active electronically scanned array, or AESA, radar which could enable it to spot stealth aircraft such as US F-22s and F-35s.

"AESA can detect stealth fighters at a very long range," military expert Li Jie told the South China Morning Post 24 January 2018. The announcement coincides with increasing deployments of F-35s and F-22s in areas close to China, such as Japan and South Korea. Both US allies have purchased F-35A jets from Lockheed Martin and may be considering procuring the F-35B for at-sea aviation operations. Li said the KJ-600 would likely be used on China's third aircraft carrier under construction in Shanghai and be compatible with its advanced electromagnetic launch system (EMALS). EMALS can launch jets more quickly and effectively than the ski-jump ramps used on China's first two aircraft carriers.

Beijing-based military expert Li Jie said in January 2018 that the aircraft can detect Lockheed Martin's stealthy, fifth-generation F-35 and F-22 aircraft. Unconfirmed reports have floated since 2016 that Chinese radars are capable of tracking the F-22, when the People's Liberation Army claimed that it sent warships and helicopters to an area in the East China Sea after detecting the Raptor. Defense expert Dave Majumdar wrote at the time for the National Interest that "it's very possible that China can track the Raptor. Stealth is not a cloak of invisibility, after all. Stealthy technology simply delays detection and tracking."

Maritime security expert Collin Koh of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore said that China's KJ-600 may prove the veracity of beliefs about China's ambitions to build a blue-water navy capable of operating far from Chinese shores. "If China's carrier group is designed more to operate closer to home waters, it would rely on shore-based early warning support. With [early warning planes], it implies that the People's Liberation Army-Navy carrier battle group is designed for distant sea operation," Koh told SCMP.

A replica KJ-600 airborne early warning aircraft was photographed sitting on a replica aircraft carrier deck, prompting Chinese military observers to link it to China's next generation of carriers using an electromagnetic catapult system. The KJ-600 replica plus a replica J-15 carrier-based fighter jet were parked on a concrete carrier deck in a photo taken in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, Science and Technology Daily reported on 01 August 2018. Chinese military fans speculated that the first KJ-600 will soon make its maiden flight. The carrier-based fixed wing plane will likely be equipped with cutting-edge technologies including a phased radar array, Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times.

Interestingly, although the Air Police 600 had not been officially exposed, at the Zhuhai Air Show in 2018, a model called the "New Silk Road" early warning aircraft was publicly displayed. It looks exactly the same as the Air Police 600, but the surface-controlled array radar was changed to two sides of the back-to-back, and its relationship with the Air Police 600 was the same as the relationship between the ZDK-03 AWACS and the Air Police 500.

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Page last modified: 01-08-2021 14:08:14 ZULU