Military Review

The first serial Chinese AWACS aircraft

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The first serial Chinese AWACS aircraft

At the end of the 1950th century, the Chinese army lagged far behind the developed countries in terms of the level of equipment with modern equipment and weapons. The land, air and sea forces of the PLA were for the most part equipped with samples created on the basis of Soviet developments of the 1960-1980s. Active military-technical cooperation with the United States and its allies that took place in the XNUMXs provided China with access to a number of advanced foreign defense technologies and even to certain modern weapons at that time, but this did not fundamentally change the situation.


In the 1990s, when Western sanctions were imposed against China after the suppression of student protests in Tiananmen Square, the main supplier of modern weapons for the PLA was Russia. At the same time, relying on the growing economic power and shamelessly copying engineering solutions and technologies, the PRC leadership has relied on the development of its own military-industrial complex.

At the first stage, complex defense products were ordered abroad, at the second stage, on the basis of the received technical documentation, production was established within the country, and then, based on the acquired technologies and accumulated experience, the development of equipment and weapons was carried out, which were declared "originally Chinese."

In fairness, it must be said that the stage when the Chinese military-industrial complex relied on reverse engineering for the most part has already been passed, and the PRC military industry is quite capable of creating most of the modern military products on its own.

Creation of the AWACS aircraft KJ-2000


In the early 1990s, China signed a number of major defense contracts with Russia. In particular, multibillion-dollar deals were made between Moscow and Beijing for the supply of S-300P anti-aircraft missile systems and heavy Su-27SK fighters.

To control the actions of our own fighter-interceptors and issue target designation to long-range anti-aircraft systems of the PLA Air Force, modern long-range radar patrol and control aircraft were required, and our country offered China an export AWACS A-50E aircraft with a simplified radio-technical complex and without closed communication equipment.

After studying the characteristics of the A-50E radio-technical complex, which was built on a not very new element base, Chinese experts rejected this option. As a result, the parties decided to create a “flying radar picket” based on the Il-76 aircraft, equipped with modern Western radio engineering and communications equipment.

In 1997, a Chinese-Russian-Israeli consortium was created, the purpose of which was to build four aircraft of an early warning and control aviation complex for the PLA Air Force. The contractors were the Israeli company Elta and the Russian TANTK them. G. M. Berieva. The Russian side undertook to prepare for conversion the serial A-50 from the presence of the RF Ministry of Defense, and the Israelis were to install the EL / M-205 Phalcoon radar on it. In Russian sources, the A-50 with Israeli equipment is referred to as the A-50I.

Unlike the RTK of the Soviet A-50 aircraft, the Israeli EL / M-205 Phalcoon pulse-Doppler radar, developed for the Chinese A-50I, had a non-rotating mushroom antenna with three AFARs forming a triangle. One APAA consists of approximately 800 active transceiver modules that perform electronic beam scanning in two planes. Three AFARs with a field of view of 120° each provide an all-round view, without mechanical rotation of the fairing. According to Israeli experts, such a scheme greatly simplifies the design of the antenna radome and reduces weight.

According to advertising materials provided by Elta, the relatively low carrier frequency of the decimeter radar (1,2-1,4 GHz), in combination with high-performance computing tools and special noise suppression devices, made it possible to detect "difficult" low-altitude airborne targets, such as cruise missiles and aircraft developed using low radar signature technology.

In addition, the Chinese AWACS aircraft was supposed to carry modern electronic intelligence equipment, which made it possible to listen to enemy radio communications and monitor ground and ship radars in the combat area. The cost of one aircraft with an Israeli RTK was $250 million.

The practical implementation of the A-50I project began in 1999, when the A-50 with tail number 44, taken from the Russian Air Force, after dismantling the standard RTK, flew to Israel to install radar, radio and communications equipment. The transfer of the finished aircraft to the customer was planned in the second half of 2000. But in the summer of 2000, already with the high technical readiness of the complex, the Israeli side announced its withdrawal from the program. This happened due to strong pressure from the United States.

The decision to terminate the contract not only resulted in financial losses, but had a negative impact on Israel's reputation as a reliable arms supplier. At the same time, the Americans managed to only slightly slow down the implementation of the Chinese AWACS aircraft program, but not completely disrupt it. It is worth saying that Elta used the developments received under the Chinese contract, having concluded an agreement with India in 2004 for the supply of three A-50EI aircraft. The total amount of the deal was $1,1 billion, with about 2/3 of the cost being Israeli equipment.


The aircraft, prepared for the installation of Israeli equipment, was returned to the PRC, after which the Chinese leadership decided to equip the Il-76TD transport vehicles purchased in Russia with a nationally developed radio-technical complex.

There is an unofficial opinion that a secret deal between Israel and China nevertheless took place, and Chinese specialists received documentation for the EL / M-205 Phalcoon radar. An indirect confirmation of this is the fact that the equipment of the AWACS aircraft, which received the designation KJ-2000 (“Kun Ching” - “Heavenly Eye”), largely repeated the Israeli complex. As planned from the very beginning, a radar with AFAR in a fixed disk-shaped fairing was installed on the aircraft.


During operation, three fixed antenna modules installed inside the fairing and providing a circular view of the airspace were cooled by outside air entering through special openings. The frequency range of the Type 1475 radar is divided into 22 operating frequencies. A triangle is drawn in the upper part of the radar fairing, corresponding to the location of the AFAR flat panels.

The radar developed at the Nanjing Research Institute No. 14 is capable of detecting high-altitude targets at a distance of more than 400 km and simultaneously tracking up to 100 air and surface targets. It is reported that during the tests it was possible to detect and accompany the H-6 bomber (a Chinese copy of the Tu-16), flying in a parallel course at a distance of 470 km. Also, RTK operators were able to see a launching ballistic missile at a distance of 1 km.

There is a satellite communication antenna in the upper front part of the fuselage of the KJ-2000 AWACS aircraft, which allows real-time transmission of information. Unlike the Soviet AWACS A-50 aircraft, the KJ-2000 does not have side flat antennas of an electronic intelligence station and an air refueling system boom.

Nothing is known about the characteristics of the equipment that broadcasts information to ground command posts, but the Chinese media claim that one KJ-2000 is capable of simultaneously controlling the actions of several dozen combat aircraft. This became possible thanks to the use of a new computing complex based on the Chinese Spirit Chip processor.

Apparently, for its time, the KJ-2000 had a fairly advanced on-board radio-electronic equipment, and the output of radar information was carried out on color LCD monitors.


The crew can be 12-15 people, of which the flight crew is 5 people. The aircraft carries out patrols at an altitude of 5–000 m. The maximum speed is 10 km/h. Cruising - 000 km / h. Flight range - 840 km. Flight duration - 780 hours 5 minutes. Operation requires a runway with a length of at least 000 m.

At a distance of 2 km from its airfield, an aircraft can remain on patrol for 000 hour and 1 minutes. For the personal protection of the aircraft, the following equipment is installed on board: a missile launch warning system, chaff and IR traps.

Aircraft AWACS KJ-2000


The installation of the Chinese RTK on the Il-76TD purchased in Russia began in 2002. Xi'an Aircraft Company (XAC) in Xi'an was appointed as the prime contractor responsible for the creation of the KJ-2000 AWACS aircraft. The KJ-2000 made its first flight in November 2003.


Military tests of the radar complex began in 2004 in the southwest of the country. The transfer of the last fourth KJ-2000 aircraft to the customer took place in 2008.

After the successful completion of tests in November 2006, the KJ-2000 long-range radar patrol and control aircraft entered service with the PLA Air Force. According to American data, all aircraft were brought together in the specially formed 76th AWACS Regiment, organizationally part of the 26th Special Forces Division of the PLA Air Force.


The place of permanent deployment of all KJ-2000 AWACS aircraft was the Wuxi airfield in Jiangsu province, west of Shanghai. The terminals of the international airport are located in the northern part of this dual-use airfield. In the southern part of the Wuxi airfield, which is run by the military, four large hangars have been erected that can accommodate such a large aircraft as the Il-76.

However, the KJ-2000 aircraft did not stand idle at the home airfield, but actively participated in various exercises, in testing new types of missiles and combat aircraft, and also patrolled the airspace along the Formosa Strait, border areas with India and Vietnam. For this, the flight and technical staff of the 76th AWACS regiment, together with the airfield infrastructure, was transferred to other airfields, where all four KJ-2000s, as well as individual vehicles of the 76th Aviation Regiment, could be deployed along with transport support aircraft.


Satellite image of Google Earth: aircraft KJ-2000, KJ-200 and Tu-154MD at Nanyuan airbase, the picture was taken in August 2009

Based on the freely available satellite images of Google Earth, one can judge the geography of the deployment of KJ-2000 aircraft. So, in the picture of the Nanyuan airbase, located in the suburbs of the Chinese capital, the KJ-2000, KJ-200 and Tu-154MD AWACS aircraft are visible in all their glory, which in August 2009 participated in the major exercises of the PLA Air Force and Navy held in the Bohai Gulf and Yellow sea.

The KJ-2000 aircraft were not rare guests at the Dingxing airbase in northwest China in the Gansu province, the Inner Mongolia region, where the PLA Air Force combat center and the largest in China are located. aviation and a missile range.

In March 2006, a large-scale demonstration of modern aircraft and air defense systems was organized for the top military and political leadership of the PRC at the Dingxin airbase. Among other samples, the KJ-2000 AWACS aircraft occupied a place of honor in the exposition.


Satellite image of Google Earth: KJ-2000 aircraft at Dingsin airbase among other aircraft, the image was taken in March 2006

The great advantage of the Dingsin range is the ability to carry out launches at air targets with long-range anti-aircraft and aviation missiles, since this area is practically not populated, and in the east it is about 600 km to the nearest settlement of Bayan-Nur. This allows you to conduct secret tests away from prying eyes and ensure the necessary safety of flights and the use of aviation weapons.

Large-scale exercises of the PLA Air Force "Red Sword", as well as the final stage of the competition of fighter pilots "Golden Helmet" are regularly held at the aviation training ground. At the final stage of the competition in close air combat, the J-10, J-11, Su-30MKK and Su-35SK fighters converge.


Satellite image of Google Earth: KJ-2000 aircraft at Dingsin Air Base, image taken in June 2011

In the past, the first Chinese KJ-2000 AWACS aircraft were regularly used to monitor the progress of air battles and organize radar support.

Between exercises, tests and patrols, the KJ-2000 aircraft underwent maintenance and repair at the Xi'an factory airfield of the XAS aircraft manufacturer.


Satellite image of Google Earth: the KJ-2000 aircraft next to other AWACS aircraft in the parking lot of the Xi'an factory airfield, the image was taken in November 2013

Shortly after the commissioning of all four KJ-2000s, the PLA command expressed interest in acquiring an additional batch of such aircraft, equipped with improved on-board equipment and electronic intelligence equipment. However, everything rested in the absence of new basic Il-76 aircraft, which were not assembled in Russia in those years, and the customer refused to purchase used transport aircraft from the Russian Air Force.

In 1995, an attempt was made to continue building the upgraded Il-76MF at the Tashkent Aviation Plant, but it failed. In July 2006, the Russian government issued an order to organize the production of Il-76 aircraft in Ulyanovsk at the Aviastar-SP plant. But the production of Il-76MD-90A aircraft with PS-90A3 engines was delayed, and the Chinese side lost interest in this project.

The decommissioning of the lead aircraft KJ-2000 took place in 2009, and now it is installed as a monument in the museum and memorial complex at the Xi'an factory airfield. In 2018, all KJ-2000s were withdrawn from the combat strength of the PLA Air Force.


Google Earth satellite image: KJ-2000 aircraft in the museum and memorial complex at the XAS factory airfield in Xi'an

From the three remaining KJ-2000s, the radar antenna and the radio engineering complex were dismantled, after which the “disarmed” Il-76TD were used as flying laboratories for several years.


Satellite image of Google Earth: Il-76TD (former KJ-2000) and Y-20 aircraft at Xi'an airfield

The Il-76TD, which served as the base for AWACS aircraft, is easily identified by the satellite communications antenna located in the upper front of the fuselage and the base for the radar antenna pylon that has not been dismantled. Apparently, at the moment all these machines have already been decommissioned.

Although AWACS aircraft, with proper maintenance and repair, could serve for at least another 10 years, the PLA Air Force command decided to abandon them. Most likely, this is due not to the low fuel efficiency of the D-30KP-2 aircraft engines, as they say on Chinese forums, but to other reasons. From 2009 to 2020, China purchased 463 D-30KP-2 engines for Il-76MD/TD, Il-78, KJ-2000, H-6K aircraft and the first Y-20 prototypes.

Apparently, the refusal of the KJ-2000 is explained by the need for expensive refurbishment of heavily worn-out aircraft and the Type 1475 radar complex as a result of intensive operation. From the very beginning of its service, the absence of an air refueling system on this aircraft was considered a major drawback in the air with fuel on board.

The main factor that influenced the premature write-off of the KJ-2000 is the mass production of Chinese AWACS aircraft based on the Y-8 and Y-9 (Chinese versions of the An-12), which, being equipped with more economical turboprop engines, turned out to be much less expensive to manufacture. and operation, and required shorter runways.

Prospects for the creation in China of a new heavy aircraft AWACS KJ-3000


Aircraft KJ-200, KJ-500, ZDK-03 and Y-8G will be considered in the next part of the review, dedicated to Chinese early warning aviation. But at the end of this publication, we will analyze a promising heavy AWACS aircraft that can replace the KJ-2000.

After the transfer of the first batch of Y-2016 heavy military transport aircraft to the PLA Air Force in 20, publications began to appear in specialized aviation publications that talked about the possibility of an early creation of tanker aircraft and AWACS at the new base.


Heavy military transport aircraft Y-20

The Y-20 military transport aircraft has a maximum takeoff weight of 220 kg and can carry 000 kg. Flight range with a load of 66 kg - 000 km. Maximum flight speed - 64 km / h, cruising - 000 km.

The first prototypes were powered by four Russian D-30KP-2 engines. Serial cars received a Chinese-made WS-18 turbofan engine with a maximum thrust of 122 kN each. From 2021, it was planned to install more powerful and economical WS-20 engines, but it is not known if this was realized.

In 2020, the creation of the Y-20U tanker aircraft was confirmed, which should support the actions of the new KJ-3000 heavy AWACS aircraft and H-20 stealth bombers.


One of the options for the alleged appearance of the KJ-3000 AWACS aircraft with an upper antenna

Initially, Chinese and Western publications wrote that the new KJ-3000 AWACS aircraft will have the same layout as the KJ-2000 - with a non-rotating AFAR antenna dish mounted on a pylon in the middle upper part of the fuselage.


One of the options for the proposed appearance of the KJ-3000 AWACS aircraft with a spaced antenna arrangement

However, last year, allegedly on the basis of leaks made by the XAS company involved in the creation of this aircraft, drawings appeared on the network with the alleged appearance of the KJ-3000.

The new version has four spaced radar antennas: one each in the tail and nose, and two on the sides of the fuselage. The scheme with antenna diversity is more difficult to implement, but it is preferable in terms of reducing the aerodynamic drag of the aircraft, which, of course, will have a positive effect on increasing patrol time.

To be continued ...
Author:
Articles from this series:
Chinese AWACS aircraft: the beginning of the journey
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  1. Voronezh
    Voronezh 25 January 2023 05: 56
    +11
    That is, the A50 was superfluous to us (from availability), so they took it and sold it ... Masterpiece! Now someone in the trenches and in the air is reaping the fruits ...
    1. Bongo
      25 January 2023 12: 59
      +14
      Quote from Voronezh
      That is, the A50 was superfluous to us (from availability), so they took it and sold it ... Masterpiece! Now someone in the trenches and in the air is reaping the fruits ...

      The point is not that our country gave away an AWACS aircraft 23 years ago, which at the present moment would be junk unable to take to the air, but that over these 23 years we have not built new machines of this class. The scanty number of modernized A-50Us and the inability to create a new AWACS aircraft are primarily due to failures in the development of high-tech production and underfunding of fundamental research.
      1. cash
        cash 26 January 2023 16: 45
        +1
        about new aircraft ... they built a new a-100, but where is it and what is happening to it now ...
  2. faiver
    faiver 25 January 2023 06: 36
    +5
    As always, it is a pleasure to read materials from Sergey good
  3. Vladimir_2U
    Vladimir_2U 25 January 2023 09: 18
    +2
    Well, the Chinese are great, as is the author of the article, but the leadership of the "young country" is the opposite.
  4. Zaurbek
    Zaurbek 25 January 2023 09: 45
    0
    And on the A-100, 2 AFARs were used in a rotating saucer. Israel and NATO are making new ones without "plates". Even the "logs" are already being abandoned. They make integrated antennas in the body of civilian B-737 type liners and business jets. Depending on the required range and region.
    1. Bongo
      25 January 2023 13: 00
      +5
      Quote: Zaurbek
      And on the A-100, 2 AFARs were used in a rotating saucer. Israel and NATO are making new ones without "plates". Even the "logs" are already being abandoned. They make integrated antennas in the body of civilian B-737 type liners and business jets. Depending on the required range and region.

      What class are these cars. The Chinese mainly relied on AWACS aircraft based on their own versions of the An-12.
  5. Wildcat
    Wildcat 25 January 2023 10: 40
    +7
    hi
    As always, great article, thanks!

    The new version has four spaced radar antennas: one each in the tail and nose, and two on the sides of the fuselage. The scheme with antenna diversity is more difficult to implement, but it is preferable in terms of reducing the aerodynamic drag of the aircraft, which, of course, will have a positive effect on increasing patrol time.
    IMHO, of course, the same, but according to a similar scheme, the British tried to make Nimrod-AWACS, they tried for a long and expensive time, but still they had to go to the Americans for Sentry.

    And again, IMHO, but almost no one feel does not - they do not put a "radar dish" on the VTA.
    The Americans and the Swedes switched to the E-7 Wedgetail / Erieye scheme (AFAR panel on top, the base is a civilian aircraft). The Chinese CP929 will take off soon, the C919 is already flying - IMHO they will rely on them. Moreover, there is already a KJ-200 with Erieye as a sample, it remains to pick up a carrier ...
    1. Bongo
      25 January 2023 13: 28
      +6
      Hello! hi
      Quote: Wildcat
      IMHO, of course, the same, but according to a similar scheme, the British tried to make Nimrod-AWACS, they tried for a long and expensive time, but still they had to go to the Americans for Sentry.

      And this once again confirms how difficult the task of creating a truly effective AWACS aircraft is.
      Quote: Wildcat
      And again, IMHO, but almost no one feels like this anymore - they don’t put a "radar-dish" on the VTA.

      Are you sure?

      Quote: Wildcat
      The Americans and the Swedes switched to the E-7 Wedgetail / Erieye scheme (AFAR panel on top, the base is a civilian aircraft). The Chinese CP929 will take off soon, the C919 is already flying - IMHO they will rely on them. Moreover, there is already a KJ-200 with Erieye as a sample, it remains to pick up a carrier ...

      It seems to me that you are confusing machines of different classes. The PLA Air Force now has enough medium-class AWACS aircraft based on the Y-8 and Y-9 turboprops (let's call them conditionally "tactical"), but there are no "strategic" heavy AWACS aircraft. And there seems to be a need for them. Compared to the CP929 and C919, the heavy transport Y-20 has not only a much larger internal volume and load capacity, but also, apparently, durability. Taking into account the fact that the Y-20 is being built very massively and I plan to produce at least 400 aircraft in total, it will be easier for the military to operate this particular base vehicle as part of the unification (transporter-refueler-DRLO).

      I couldn't resist inserting a satellite image of the Xi'an Xi'an finished product site. In the photo in the lower right corner there is a very interesting aircraft. wink But this will be a separate article.
      If we consider the Y-20 aircraft as the base carrier, then it can be noted that it is more suitable for the AWACS aircraft than the Il-76MD-90A with PS-90A3 engines. The Chinese military-technical cooperation Y-20 wins in terms of aerodynamics, and there is no reason to doubt that the Chinese will still bring to mind the new economical WS-20 turbofans. The big plus of the Y-20 is that, in addition to the RTK, it can accommodate a lot of additional equipment, large-capacity fuel tanks and even places for the spare crew and operators to rest. This, combined with the in-flight refueling system, makes it possible to multiply the patrol time compared to the KJ-2000.
      1. Wildcat
        Wildcat 25 January 2023 16: 37
        +5
        hi
        Hello!
        Thanks again for the article and
        In the photo in the lower right corner there is a very interesting aircraft. wink But this will be a separate article.
        ! fellow

        Are you sure?
        No, of course, that's why I wrote that "almost no one does" with a shy emoticon ... feel

        It seems to me that you are confusing machines of different classes. The PLA Air Force now has enough medium-class AWACS aircraft based on the Y-8 and Y-9 turboprops (let's call them conditionally "tactical"), but there are no "strategic" heavy AWACS aircraft. And there seems to be a need for them. Compared to the CP929 and C919, the heavy transport Y-20 has not only a much larger internal volume and load capacity, but also, apparently, strength.

        I think you are right.
        But there is a small amount of doubt, since a variant of a civil aircraft is often chosen as an AWACS carrier, the same example of the E-7 Wedgetail / Erieye (Eyriay has generally grown to business jets). If I understand correctly, the reason for this choice is the low cost of the carrier / flight hour and its maintenance, as well as the speed of inter-flight service. The Chinese are closely watching what the leaders are doing and do not seek to do their analogues, no, IMHO.
        If the desired radar "fits" into the SR929 or S919 - IMHO, they will probably bet on them. If it "doesn't fit" and the unification option (transporter-tanker-DRLO) wins, then the Y-20.
        In general, wait and see.

        Looking forward to new articles! yes
  6. Toucan
    Toucan 25 January 2023 10: 51
    +7
    Well done article! good It is noticeable that the author is trying to work off his bread, this, among other things, is evidenced by the fact that what was said in the publication is confirmed by satellite images. What is in striking contrast with the "little-late-useless" of other authors, creeping under this minute conjuncture.
    1. Bongo
      25 January 2023 13: 33
      +9
      Quote: Tucan
      What is in striking contrast with the "little-late-useless" of other authors, creeping under this minute conjuncture.

      I figured out who you are... lol
      Apparently there is a type of people who "fluctuate along with the party line" at the level of genetic memory.
  7. bath
    bath 25 January 2023 13: 44
    +8
    The decision to terminate the contract not only resulted in financial losses


    China is most outraged that this project has led to a loss of time for China. It is for this reason that we later decided that all key weapons should be researched and produced in-house.
    1. Bongo
      25 January 2023 13: 46
      +8
      Hello!
      Quote from: wanna
      It is for this reason that we later decided that all key weapons should be researched and produced in-house.

      Absolutely sound approach! yes
      1. Kote Pan Kokhanka
        Kote Pan Kokhanka 25 January 2023 20: 24
        +4
        Evening, or rather good night Sergey! Just now I found the opportunity to read your work! Thank you sincerely!!!
        Quote: Bongo
        Hello!
        Quote from: wanna
        It is for this reason that we later decided that all key weapons should be researched and produced in-house.

        Absolutely sound approach! yes

        Essentially I agree, everything is correct, but !!!
        Having your own competencies is a matter of “time and money”. Sometimes it's easier to start with a copy. The Chinese were not the first, they only proved the viability of this approach.
        The Russian Empire and the USSR did not disdain to buy and copy someone else's. I will give just two examples from history. The appearance in the Russian fleet of 152mm Kane guns. In the thirties, history repeated itself with the Italian 100mm weapons that we had with the leader Tashkent. Who now remembers that a galaxy of a huge number of models of tank, anti-tank, anti-aircraft and naval guns began with copying the "Italian"?
        Advanced, especially in the field of weapons, you need to steal, copy and buy, with the subsequent localization of production ..
        1. bath
          bath 25 January 2023 20: 51
          +4
          Advanced, especially in the field of weapons, you need to steal, copy and buy, with the subsequent localization of production ..


          Copying saves you a lot of time when you have nothing, it's a 0 to 1 breakthrough.

          But once you have 1, you'll find that copying only lags you further because you have to copy a mature product - but your copycat product also needs to go through a stage of maturity to become just like the original.

          And at this point, your competitors are already working on the next generation, and you are always behind your rivals in time.

          The Chinese deeply understand that imitation = addiction. We cannot rely on others.