Y-8 Electronic Variants
As with the Lockheed C-130, this four-engined military transport aircraft has been a platform for a wide range of variants devoted to SIGINT, COMINT, ECM and maritime patrol duties. Equipped with various aerials and radomes under fuselage, versions of these aircraft were equipped with optical and IR cameras and are used to monitor activity around China's land and sea borders. There is some confusion between sources as to which configuration is associated with the various Gaoxin / High New designations.
Since the beginning of 2000s, China created multiple new variations of the Y-8. These electronic intelligence aircraft were for air control points, EW, DRLOU, patrol, antisubmarine warfare, and psychological struggle. All these are known under the General name "GaoXin project" ("Modern"). It is obvious that the information available for each option, its history and structure of the equipment is very limited. In most cases, new versions virtually nothing was known until the advent of the new modification Y-8GX. Note the fact that while these options Y-8GX numbered GX-1 to GX-8, they are not necessarily identified in the same manner.
Y-8X Maritime Patrol
Y-8X was the oldest electronic reconnaissance and search airplane in the Y-8 family. The type name, Y-8X, is easily confounded with Y-8-X, SAI's new transportation aircraft project of 2002. The first Y-8X entered service in PLA Naval Aviation in 1984. The Y-8X inherited the main frame of the prototype Y-8 and was equipped with new electronic devices. The Y-8X has a purchased AN/APS-504 search radar below the nose, and this radar dome later become a typical feature of most Y-8 electronic variants. In the rear part of middle fuselage, 2 photo reconnaissance pods are on either side. On the cargo door, there are infrared camera, infrared submarine searching instrument and sonobuoy launcher. Near the tail of Y-8X, a vertical photographing pod was installed. And the tail gun was modified to a chamber for sonar operator. From March to June in 1986, a Y-8X flew 5 sorties to South China Sea. Now there are 4 Y-8X (No. 9261, 9271, 9281 and 9291) in PLA Naval Aviation Forces.
The Y-8J's project code name was "515" and it gave the PLA Navy a primary Early Warning capability. The Y-8J's most remarkable feature is its big nose, where the Skymaster Radar, purchased from British electronics manufacturer Racal, is installed. Skymaster Radar provides air and naval surveillance in 360 degrees in azimuth. The radar also let PLA Navy have capability to detect small target and operate anti-submarine watch. Some sources state it can provide mid-course guidance for anti-ship missiles. PLA imported about 8 Skymaster Radars and the number of Y-8J is limited. Besides, the performance of Skymaster cannot match contemporary requirements. Most of these Y-8Js are in PLA Northern Fleet naval aviation Independence First Regiment (Laiyang Airport, Yantai, Shandong Province).
079 Y-8 Radar Testing Platform
079 Y-8 Radar and Electronic Devices Testing Platform was developed by CFTE in the middle of 1990s and was successfully finished its trial flight test in August 1999. The 079 Y-8 uses Y-8C's body and expands the nose space for radar system. At beginning, 079 Y-8 had a cylinder dome on its nose, which made it be twin with Y-8J. In 2004, some new photos perhaps taken in manchuria showed that 079 Y-8 change the nose to a cone-shape dome for the China's J-11B's Type 1473 fire control radar testing. One of these photos also displayed the 079 Y-8 had one 6-blade FWJ-6C Turbine propeller, which will be used in Y-8F600 and Y-9.
Y-8CB High New 1 Gaoxin-1 Electronic Counter-Measures (ECM)
Y-8 for electronic counter-measures (ECM) uses a traditional Y-8C airframe. A large canoe shaped structure is located between the nose gear and main gear. This structure is similar to the domes installed on the Y-8 AEW 2 and PLA's Tu-154M/D electronic intelligence aircraft (registration number B-4138). The B-4138 Tu-154M/D was equipped a SAR in the canoe. However, the devices in Y-8 AEW 2 and Y-8 ECM are unknown. Besides these external characteristics, there are several blade antennas on the position of cargo door.
Y-8JB High New 2 Gaoxin-2 Electronic Intelligence (ELINT)
A columned antenna dome, larger than normal Y-8C, is under ELINT Y-8's nose, which looks like a copy of EP-3E's OE-319 "Big Eye" surveillance radar. It is said that the project of ELINT Y-8 had a relation with the EB-3's forced landing on Lingshui Airport, Hainan Province. It is interesting that a similar yellow colored antenna on the Y-8 AEW is also seen on the ELINT Y-8's nose. Their function is perhaps gathering intelligence. A satellite communication antenna is on the root of vertical tail. Above the cockpit, there is another antenna dome which is perhaps a datalink. In order to keep a better condition for the crew and devices, the cargo door was sealed. Now there are two ELINT Y-8 (No. 9352 and 9361) in the PLA Navy Northern Fleet.
Y-8G High New 3 Gaoxin-3 Battlefield Surveillance System
This type of Y-8 was disclosed along with the Y-8 AEW 1 in a video of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao's visiting Shanxi Aircraft Industry. Jane's reported that Shanxi Aircraft Industry was developing a Y-8 outfitted with arge electronic array on both sides just behind the cockpit. The arrays may have possible functions such as ECM, battle signal surveillance and SAR missions. The tip of vertical tail has similar cylinder antenna dome with Y-8 AEW 1. This Y-8 use new empennage and Y-8F600 nose structure. Actually, the new fuselage is a new platform for special purposes. April 15, 2005, Shanxi Aircraft Industry declared a new significant project called as "The Third Type Platform" had been finished. SAI said that the new platform "provide high performance airframe to produce special purposing aircraft and leads a brighter future of Y-8 family." The newest Y-8 AEW-1 and Y-8 with Battle Surveillance System use this new platform.
Y-8T High New 4 Gaoxin-4 C3I
The Communications, Command, Control and Intelligence C3I Y-8 has a greatly improved Y-8C airframe: a thinner and longer fuselage, sealed cargo door, a large satellite antenna on the back, some blade antennae for electronic intelligence reconnaissance. The C3I Y-8 probably completed its trial flight test in July or October 2004.
The PLAAF Y-8W AWACS aircraft "Balance Beam Testbed" bears some resemblance to the Swedish Saab 340 AWACS aircraft.
It is believed that the development of Y-8GX-6 (GaoXin 6, also referred to as Y-8FQ or Y-8Q) started from 2007, and it is based on platform Y-8F-600 "category III", which is completely air-tight compartment, WJ-6 engines of increased power (5100 HP).
Y-8 High New 7
Chinese Military Aviation states that "A new Y-8 pychological operation (XZ) variant was unveiled in April 2008 as one of the newest members of the High New series (High New 7 or K/YXZ8?). The aircraft features large fairings located forward of the main landing gear compartments, and two large plate antennas on each side of the rear fuselage. "
Y-8 High New 8
Chinese Military Aviation states that "This newest member of the "High New" series was first spotted in April 2011 at CFTE. Similar to Y-8W, High New 8 is based on "Y-8 Catalog III Platform" ... it features a dorsal SATCOM antenna as well as two large rectangular shaped fairings on both sides of the rear fuselage. Additional antennas are installed at the wingtips, on top of the vertical tailfin as well as inside the nose/tail cone. The exact mission of High New 8 is still unknown."
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