China’s new KJ-500 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft has received extensive international attention since its appearance. Canada’s Kanwa Intelligence Review published an article saying that KJ-500 was for the first time completely made in China and it will provide effective support for China in dealing with stealth fighters.
Military experts said in an interview with CCTV that AEW&C aircraft can form a three-dimensional combat force, which has important significance on land and high sea operations. Currently, the U.S. still leads the AEW&C aircraft development. However, when China has a larger platform in the future, it will certainly catch up.
The AEW&C aircraft is equipped with the entire long-range surveillance radar system to search and monitor targets in air or sea, and it can command and guide its allied aircraft to perform combat missions.
With four turboprop engines, the KJ-500’s maximum takeoff weight is 77 tons. Its cruising speed is 550 km per hour, with a range of about 5,700 km.
According to reports, the KJ-500 joined the Chinese PLA Air Force in early 2015 and demonstrated excellent combat performance.
When it comes to what significance does KJ-500 have on China’s overall military power, Professor Chen Hong with the PLA Air Force Command College (AFCC) pointed out that after the KJ-500 joined the Chinese military, the joint training with various models of aircraft of the PLA Air Force is required. The KJ-500 also has to form a data link with the various models of aircraft and missiles, in order to control them well.
There are many important sub-systems in the KJ-500 such as radar-probing system and target recognition system. Only after repeated joint air and land training exercises, can the KJ-500 maximize its capability in command, communications, control and intelligence functions, so as to work with air, land, surface and underwater military forces to form a three-dimensional combat force.
The Kanwa Intelligence Review reported that because the world’s military powers are vigorously developing the fourth generation and the fifth generation fighters, from the point of view of radar detection, AEW&C aircraft’s detection range for stealth fighters is only a quarter of that of third generation fighters and other conventional targets.This does not meet the demand of today’s real combat.
If we take a look, Japan, ROK, India, Singapore and Taiwan region are in the pursuit of fourth generation fighter jets. The Russian T-50 already had its first flight and the U.S. has already deployed its F-22 fighter jets to Guam. Moreover, B-2 stealth bombers and F 35 fighters of the U.S. side will also have frequent visits to China’s surroundings.
Air Force expert Fu Qianshao said that better stealth fighter can make radar more near-sighted.
Though there are many ways to deal with stealth aircraft, such as passive radar, multi-radar and VHF radar, it is difficult to apply these radars on AEW&C aircraft, according to Fu.
In addition, Fu continued, the increases in detection range and tune frequency of the radar wavelength are effective measures to find stealth targets. In the future, if AEW&C aircraft uses a longer wavelength, it will have a better detection capability.
Chen Hong said that in the development of AEW&C aircraft, the U.S. is still leading the world and there is a lot for China to learn from the realistic combat experience of U.S. AEW&C aircraft.
Although some U.S. scientists believe that China’s KJ-2000 has crossed the technological level of the United States, China still needs to learn and progress. Besides, China’s AEW&C aircraft has not yet been tested by any combat, Chen added.
Fu Qianshao also believes that the improvement of its technological level and research and development platform are very important if China wants to have more advanced AEW&C aircraft.
In the future, China’s large aircraft such as Y-20 and C919, and large wide-body aircraft might be used as a platform for AEW&C aircraft. At that time, we can install larger and more advanced early warning radars and China’s detection capability can certainly achieve world-class level.