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Y-8J Project 515 Skymaster AEW

The Y-8J project, code name "515", gave the PLA Navy a primary Early Warning capability, a major upgrade in the navy's capabilities. 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 gave the PLA Navy the capability to detect small target and operate anti-submarine watch. The performance of Skymaster cannot match contemporary requirements.

By early 2000 China's navy completed the conversion of the first Shaanxi Y-8 transport for airborne early warning (AEW), and carried out initial naval exercises with the aircraft. The conversion was the culmination of more than four years of work.Taiwan officials reported that the aircraft was used in exercises to assist long-range targeting of anti-ship cruise missiles launched from a warship. PLA imported 6 or 8 Skymaster Radars, so the number of thesee Y-8J is limited. Most of these Y-8Js are in PLA Northern Fleet naval aviation Independence First Regiment (Laiyang Airport, Yantai, Shandong Province).

The Thorn EMI (subsequently Thales Aerospace Division) Skymaster is an X-band maritime surveillance and AEW radar that employs 'techniques' and software-controlled system management to provide multifunctionality. Six or eight sets were sold to China in 1996 for $66 millionon the understanding they would equip the SH-5 ASW flying boat. It incorporates a high power travelling wave tube transmitter and a fully stabilised antenna capable of 360 rotation. The equipment's signal processing capability is claimed to facilitate the detection of airborne and sea surface targets in a high clutter/sea state environment at ranges of up to 185 km. The configuration is similar to that used by the smaller Britten Norman Defender twin-turboprop, which was fitted with the Skymaster for ground and maritime surveillance and AEW roles in the late 1980s.

Operating modes include look-up (employing frequency agility and within-beam integration to enhance the detection and tracking of high-altitude air targets), look-down (using a medium pulse repetition frequency, pulse-Doppler technique to optimise the detection and tracking of 'fast moving', low-altitude air targets), maritime surveillance (incorporating frequency agility), track-while-scan and weather detection. System polarisation can be operator adjusted to reduce clutter and optimise target detection and the architecture as a whole can accommodate up to five operator stations each of which is equipped with a color display and two touch-sensitive, plasma control panels.

When associated with a MILitary STanDard (MIL-STD)-1553B bus, the operator station/s can be used to control onboard sensors other than the radar itself. Skymaster offers over-the-horizon targeting, tactical plot maintenance and engagement control facilities. Display formats include confirmed target symbology (grid or latitude/longitude referenced), raw radar data (ground stabilised or rolling map) and alpha-numeric track information.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:48:45 ZULU