- May 26, 2006
- Reaction score
This airborne early warning (AEW) variant of Y-8 (Project 515) was first spotted near Shanghai in 2000. It may feature a Sky Master surveillance radar (based upon earlier Search Water radar) housed in a enlarged, slightly dropped nose radome, a configuration similar to the smaller Britten Norman Defender twinturboprop for ground and maritime patrol and AEW roles. 6-8 sets of this radar system were purchased by China in 1996 from UK's Racal for $66m. The Sky Master L band PD radar has a detection range of 85km (look-down mode) or 110km (look-up mode) against a 5 m2 aerial target, and 230km against a sea surface target. A total of 100 aerial targets and 32 sea surface targets can be tracked simultaneously. Y-8J also has a limited C&C capability. The system can direct up to 6 aircraft to intercept enemy aircraft. The first prototype flew on September 26 1998. So far at least two Y-8J AEW platforms (serial # 9281, 9301) were converted by Shannxi Aircraft Industry Corporation (SAC) and both are in service with PLAN. It was speculated that the aircraft could be used to provide targetting information for long-range anti-ship missiles, but this has not been confirmed. This AEW variant is believed to be far less capable than KJ-2000 AWACS just entering service with PLAAF but can be regarded as a stop-gap measure for PLAN until a fully capabable AWACS is available.
One of the KJ-200 (Y-8W?) AWACS prototypes wearing a naval camouflage color scheme is shown here. This so-called "Balanced Beam Testbed" bears some resemblance to the Swedish Saab 340 AWACS aircraft with its electronically scanning phased array radar inside a large rectangular fairing carried above the fuselage. The radar is likely to be the product of the 38th Institute. The first Y-8 "Balance Beam Testbed" prototype took off on November 8, 2001 at SAC, after converted from a Y-8F-200 transport aircraft. The production version (formally named as KJ-200) is based on the new Y-8 "Catagory III Platform" which has a redesigned fuselage with a solid nose and a new tail section with the loading ramp removed. Two radomes are located at the nose tip and tailcone which may house additional antennas to provide full 360° coverage. More fairings can be seen at the wingtips and top of the tailfin as well. It also has an integrated wing fuel tank and 4 high-efficiency JL-4 6-blade propellers giving the aircraft a longer range and less noise. A C3I center is housed in a pressurized carbin, and a new integrated digital avionics system based on ARING429 and RS422 databus has been installed. This new type first flew on January 14, 2005 at SAC. Both KJ-200 and KJ-2000 have demonstrated China's determination to acquire indigenous AWACS capability after the earlier A-50I setback. They are expected to coordinate J-7G, J-8F, J-10A, J-11A, JH-7A and H-6H/M via datalinks in the possible air compaigns against Taiwan. Two prototypes had been evaluated by PLAAF (30x7x?). However #2 KJ-200 crashed on June 3, 2006 due to wing surface icing -- a serious blow to the indigenous AWACS effort. The latest information (November 2007) suggested that an improved KJ-200 has been built at SAC.
A rare glimpse of a Y-8 AWACS (serial # T0518) prototype is shown here. It was first discovered at CFTE in early 2006. Unlike the KJ-200, this variant carries a tranditional rotodome above its fuselage, a configuration similar to a wind tunnel model first seen in mid-90s. The aircraft came as a surprise that Chinese have turned what believed to be a "dead" design into a reality. However it has been speculated to be for the export market only as it is less advanced than KJ-200 AWACS which features a PAR radar. The AEW radar may be the product of 38th Institute, but no details are available. The aircraft also features a solid nose and tail as well as two small vertial tail stablizers. Y-8 AWACS has been promoted to Pakistani AF.