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Military


Z-18J/Y AEW variant

The Zhi-18J and Zhi-18Y designators are both well attested as early warning helicopters, though the distinction between the two, if any remains obscure.

The Zhi-18 platform first appeared in front of the public as a ship-borne early warning helicopter. A retractable and foldable radar antenna was installed in the rear half of the fuselage. Later, in order to improve the flow field near the fuselage and reduce the resistance, an arc-shaped fairing was installed on the radar antenna, so that the rear fuselage of the aircraft also showed a fuller arc appearance, which is also the identification of the straight -18 early warning helicopter.

The Zhi-18Y early warning helicopter is a very important improved model in the Zhi-18 family. Its positioning is mainly Responsible for the Liaoning aircraft carrier battle group and the first domestically-made aircraft carrier formation, medium and long-distance air-to-sea search and alert missions. With nearly 3 hours of empty time, it can gain about 10 minutes of warning time for surface fleets.

The main air defense missile of China's surface fleet is the Hongqi 9B recently. It has replaced new high-energy fuel with a range of more than 200 kilometers. However, due to the influence of the curvature of the earth, the ship-borne radar has a detection range of only 50 kilometers. The detection range is even smaller, and it is not enough to take advantage of the Hongqi 9Bs anti-missile range. Therefore, it can be relayed and guided by the straight 18J. Since launch and guidance are not completed by the same platform, there is a problem of target handover. The early warning helicopter must capture the missile through the surface ship's uplink data link, establish communication with it, and obtain control over the missile, and introduce it into its own radar beam.

The Chinese Navy imported nine Ka-31 from Russia at the beginning of this century, but after testing, it is believed that the performance of this type of early warning helicopter is average, especially the critical radar and electronic system design is relatively clunky and performance is relatively low and cannot meet the combat needs of aircraft carrier fleet air defense. Russias Ka-31 early warning helicopter can only take two radar operators, so its ability to control air conditions and command operations is weak, and the coordination functions of the command team members are incomplete, and they can only take care of key tasks. Therefore, the Ka-31 can only be regarded as a large radar reconnaissance aircraft, and its command function is not strong. Therefore, the Ka-31 helicopter in the hands of the Chinese Navy did not finally appear on the deck of the "Liaoning" ship. Instead, it returned to the original design of the Ka-31, and carried out surface warfare as a group of destroyers and frigates. Search and relay guidance models during missions.

Compared with the Ka 31 early warning helicopters we imported in the past, the Z-18J early warning helicopters have achieved performance exceeding, especially the aircraft's radar system, it is the first early warning helicopter active phased array radar system. The Z-18J early warning helicopter has a maximum detection range of 320 kilometers. Although it cannot keep up with the fixed-wing early warning aircraft, it is the strongest early warning helicopter. After the target is found, the Z-18J early warning helicopter can also provide direct fire control guidance, and it can also command fighter jets to intercept the target.

The Z-18J uses a two-dimensional X-band active phased array early warning radar, which is another frequency early warning radar after the L-band Air Police 2000 and the S-band Air Police 500. Its retractable antenna is in the azimuth angle. Mechanical scanning, electronic scanning at the pitch angle. The detection range of the radar is determined by the power and aperture, but the power is restricted by the power that the platform can provide. It is very difficult to increase significantly. If the power is not enough, the aperture is used to compensate. It can be hung, so the 18J radar can reach 3.5 meters after deployment (E801 is 6 meters x 1 meter), which is far beyond the detection range of the J-15 radar. The data link of the Zhi-18J is compatible with the J-15 and can be used for command and guidance. With the guidance accuracy of the X-band active phased array radar, the J-15 pilot can directly incorporate the target into his radar beam. Moreover, the combination of X-band and active phased array antennas not only has extremely high detection accuracy, but also has fast refresh speed and has fire control potential. Therefore, the Z-18J can also directly control missiles for interception operations and obtain cooperative engagement capabilities similar to the US military.

In June 2018, the Zhi-18J early warning helicopter was deployed on the aircraft carrier "Liaoning". It has significantly helped the improvement of the combat effectiveness of the Chinese Army. The Z-18 early warning helicopter has a maximum take-off weight of 13.8 tons. The power system is driven by three turboshaft-6C engines. With sufficient power from three engines, the flying speed reaches 336 km/h, the maximum ceiling is 9,000 meters, and the maximum range. It is about 900 kilometers. The transport type of the Zhi-18 helicopter can carry 27 fully armed personnel, but after being transformed into a ship-based early warning helicopter, the cabin needs to accommodate huge radar avionics equipment and generator sets, as well as air intelligence consoles and other equipment.

The Zhi-18 helicopter has excellent platform performance. As an early warning helicopter developed from the Zhi-8 transport helicopter, the biggest advantage of the Zhi-18 is that it has a very large internal space and a relatively large take-off weight, so that the helicopter can accommodate more avionics and tactics. Information processing equipment, generator sets and technicians. The 4 crew commanders in the CCTV photos should be 1 commander, 1 radar operator (and mechanical maintenance division), and 2 air formation commanders.

In order to effectively improve the air-to-air and sea-to-sea detection range and detection accuracy of the two ski-jump take-off aircraft carriers, the Chhinese navy equipped them with domestic Z-18J carrier-based early warning helicopters, although the performance is inferior to fixed-wing carrier-based early warning aircraft. But it has been able to satisfy these two aircraft carriers in wartime.

In contrast, Chinese sources claim the command capability of the Zhi-18Y early warning helicopter is slightly stronger than that of the E-2 early warning aircraft. The crew of the E-2 AWACS consists of 5 people. Except for the two pilots, there are only 3 people in the command cabin. This is relatively rare among early warning helicopters. In addition, the Zhi-18 has better avionics performance and has networked node combat capabilities. The AESA active phased array radar equipped on the aircraft has good detection accuracy and performance.

The Zhi-18Y early warning helicopter has ample internal space. In addition to the two pilots, there are four battle positions in the command cabin with four radar operators sitting, which is considered to be relatively good among the shipborne early warning helicopters. In contrast, in addition to the two pilots of the Ka-31 helicopter in active service in Russia, there are also two radar operators in the command cabin. The Liaoning ship carrying four Z-18Y early warning helicopters has a stronger ability to control air conditions than the French Navys Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, because the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier only carries two E-2C early warning aircraft.

In actual combat operations, it is impossible to ensure that all aircraft are in a complete state at any time. Therefore, in order to ensure the attack rate on large nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in the United States, they are generally equipped with four E-2 early warning aircraft to ensure that they have the opportunity to cover 24 hours a day. The Charles de Gaulle equipped with only two E-2 early warning aircraft can only dispatch a maximum of 4 early warning aircraft per day. Under normal circumstances, it can only dispatch a maximum of 3 sorties, which means that it can only cover 12 hours a day. There is no early warning aircraft for half of the day, and even if there is, there is only one early warning aircraft, and that one E-2 early warning aircraft has only three commanders.

The Liaoning and Shandong ships rely on 4 Z-18Y early warning helicopters. Based on an early warning aircraft dispatching 1.5 sorties per day, the normal number of dispatches of 6 sorties per day can be obtained, which can basically cover the air-to-sea reconnaissance 24 hours a day.

If the Zhi-18 carrier-based early warning aircraft is deployed in the airspace 100-150 kilometers away from the mothership and 3000 meters in height, it can stay empty for nearly 3 hours, and the airborne radar can detect medium and high altitude and sea targets 250 kilometers away. The detection range of low-altitude and ultra-low-altitude targets can reach up to 100 kilometers, which can basically provide a low-altitude warning period of about 10-12 minutes for surface fleets, which can be increased by nearly 10 times compared with the simple use of shipborne radar.

The Zhi-18 radar equipment is concentrated backwards, which can free up the space in the front and middle of the cabin for the radar station to work, so that there is no need to transmit the radar data to the carrier like the Ka-31. The latter guides the combat aircraft, which helps to improve the rapid response capability of the formation. However, the Zhi-18 is a helicopter after all. In terms of range, ceiling, radar detection and command and guidance capabilities, there is still a big gap between it and the fixed-wing early warning aircraft such as the US E-2C. It can only be regarded as a stopgap measure.

The successful research and development of the Z-18Y early warning helicopter, the domestic platform has a high starting point and advanced technology, which solves the shortcomings of the Chinese navy's large surface warships in detecting, tracking, searching, and alerting long-range targets from the sea to the air. Improved the combat power of the Liaoning aircraft carrier battle group, is the standard equipment of China's Liaoning and domestic aircraft carriers. The service of the Z-18 early warning aircraft has greatly improved the detection capabilities of China's naval aircraft carriers against low-altitude targets, improved their short-range response capabilities, and can even intercept anti-ship missiles.



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Page last modified: 08-12-2021 15:58:57 ZULU