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Assessing China's airborne early warning and control systems

  • Staff Reporter
  • 2014-08-07
  • 15:57 (GMT+8)
The KJ-200 led the air force in the 2009 National Day military parade, Oct. 1, 2009. (Photo/CNS)

The KJ-200 led the air force in the 2009 National Day military parade, Oct. 1, 2009. (Photo/CNS)

China has successfully developed it own airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system, with the KJ-2000 and the KJ-200, reported overseas Chinese news outlet Duowei on Aug. 4.

After China's initial attempts to develop its own system in the 1970s, the nation looked to Russia but the price was too high and the functionality fell short of China's expectations. An attempt to import the Israeli A-501 in the mid-1990s was blocked by the US and eventually fell through. In 2002, China stopped importing Russian AEW&C systems and developed its own, the KJ-2000 and KJ-200 which served as the lead aircraft in the military parade of the 2009 National Day.

The KJ-2000, based on the Russian Ilyushin IL-76, is equipped with domestically designed radar and active electronically scanned array (AESA). Unlike the traditional rotating mechanical radars used by the US and Russia, AESA is immobile. It scans electronically through lifting and position gauging. The KJ-2000 is the first AWE&C system in the world to adopt AESA. The KJ-200, the backup for the KJ-2000, is equipped with a simplified system on the airbase of the Shaanxi Y-8. The two Chinese AEW&C systems complement each other and are able to serve in arranged pairs at different heights.

A new heavy helicopter- or vessel-borne AEW&C is also rumored to have been developed behind closed doors, according to Duowei.

An AEW&C system is vital in air combat. Without its scanning and guidance a battle in the air would be unimaginable. During the 42-day Operation Desert Storm, the US Boeing E-3A and E-2C served thousands of planes and guided more than 100,000 flights, avoiding potential disasters.

Who's Who

  • Luo Huining (駱惠寧)

    Luo Huining (駱惠寧)

    Luo Huining has been governor of Qinghai province in western China since 2010. Born: 1954Birthplace: Yiwu, Zhejiang provinceCountry of Citizenship: ...