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Kopp C, Jan-2007. The PLA-AF's New Force Multipliers, Defence Today Vol. 6 No. 1

Kopp C, Jan-2007. The PLA-AF's New Force Multipliers, Defence Today Vol. 6 No. 1

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Published by: Foro Militar General on Oct 21, 2012
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03/30/2013

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32
DefenceToday
The PLA-AF's newforce multipliers
Dr Carlo Kopp
C
hina is in the midst of a large scalerestructuring and modernisation ofits air force and naval air arm,onthe scale of the Warsaw Pactspending surge during the 1980s,which includes Airborne EarlyWarning & Control (AWE&C) and air-to-air refueling systems.Unlike the economicallyanaemic Warsaw Pact nations,China has abooming economy in double digit growth,whichmeans it can sustain a spending spree on a rangeof programs.Recent developments in China include initial ordersfor an air wing of 50 Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker Dshipboard fighters for the former Russian 1143.5class aircraft carrier Varyag,currently in refit; thepublic unveiling of the first operational Rafale classJ-10 indigenous canard-delta fighters; ongoingprogress with the KJ-2000/A-50 indigenous AWACS; an order for eight Ilyushin Il-78MK tankers;and the unveiling of the re-engined new build H-6K Badge cruise missile carrier.
China’s AEW&C Programs
The PLA has had a long-standing interest inacquiring an AEW&C/AWACS capability.Its earliestexperiments involved the indigenous KJ-1 / Project926 system carried in a rotodome by a turboproppowered Tu-4 Bull,itself a Soviet clone of the B-29Superfortress (examples have survived inmuseums).By the 1990s the PLA decided it had to have an AEW&C capability,after observing the rout of theIraqi air force in Desert Storm and the Serbian airforce in Allied Force.China sought to acquire thelatest technology and contracted Israeli industry torehost the Elta Phalcon L-band phased array radar,at the time also bid to the RAAF on an A-310airframe on a Russian Ilyushin Il-76 Candidairframe,emulating the Soviet Beriev A-50Mainstay AEW&C design.The L-band Phalcon wasthe basis of the Elta bid for the RAAF Wedgetailprogram and is a generation ahead of Japan’s E-767 AEW&C and Taiwan’s E-2T Hawkeye.US pressure on Israel killed the A-50I deal in July2000,and reports soon emerged that the RussianBeriev A-50U or A-50E variant,equipped with theSchmel series mechanically steered array,was tobe purchased.India subsequently signed withIsrael to pick up the A-50I instead of China.The collapse of China’s plan to acquire the Beriev A-50I AEW&C with the Israeli Elta Phalcon phasedarray radar was a significant setback for the PLA- AF,and was a loss of face globally to the US.TheChinese leadership vowed publicly they would getan AEW&C capability.Unsupported claims of an impending buy of theRussian Beriev A-50U or A-50E continued,untilphotographs emerged on the Internet during the2003 period showing what was clearly an A-50-like AEW&C being flown from the Central Flight TestEstablishment at Nanjing. A respectable number of amateur photographs ofan A-50I aircraft being flown over Nanjing havesince emerged on the Internet,some of remarkablequality.At least three prototypes were built,andflown in differing livery including a two-tone greycamouflage.Chinese source claim the aircraft isdesignated the KJ-2000.Imagery clearly shows three-sided phased arraydielectric radomes and wingtip ESM fairings on arebuilt Il-76 Candid airframe.An APU has beeninstalled in the left main undercarriage fairing.Aftfuselage strakes,absent on the A-50,have beeninstalled.The ram air inlet in the root of the verticalstabiliser of the A-50 is absent,as are the fuselagedielectric blister radomes for the ESM.The KJ-2000 prototypes have been photographed with andwithout aerial refuelling probes installed.There has been some speculation that the PRC maybe attempting to clone the Israeli Phalcon systemusing indigenous technology.Given that L-bandradio frequency power transistors of suitableratings are available commercially,cloning isfeasible and entirely consistent with the longrunning PLA policy of concurrently developingindigenous products while importing foreignequivalents.An L-band array Transmit-Receivemodule design of suitable performance andconfiguration could be used for both the A-50system and the smaller Y-8 design,sharing most ofthe system hardware and software.A least oneimage exists of a ground-based antenna testing rig,built up as an AESA radome and mounted atop amast on a larger building.What remains unclear at this time is the IOC for anoperational system,and specific performanceparameters for the AESA,such as module countand peak power rating.It is reasonable to speculatethat these parameters would be very similar to theIsraeli Elta design,to which the PLA hadconsiderable exposure.
The PLA's new KJ-2000 AWACS prototype in the circuit at the Central Flight Test Establishment in Nanjing (via Internet).Beriev A-50E AWACS (Beriev) 
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DefenceToday
 
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The PLA has two other AEW&C developmentprograms under way at this time,with multiplephotographs now circulating on the Internet.The first is a conventional radar using arotodome,with the installation mounted on aShaanxi Y-8 (An-12 Cub) transport.The resulting AEW&C system is in the class of the C-130H andP-3B AEW&C systems built by Lockheed-Martinusing the APS-145 UHF radar from the E-2C.Asno images are available showing the exposedmain antenna,it is impossible to drawconclusions about radar operating wavelengthand antenna gain and sidelobe performance.Theairframe is a ‘classic’ Y-8 Cub,with additionalvertical stabilisers on the tips of the horizontaltails.The second smaller AEW&C program has beenlabelled the KJ-200 or ‘Y-8 Balanced Beam’system.Installed on a late model Y-8F-600airframe with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150Bturboprops and Honeywell avionics.The KJ-200has been observed in the Nanjing area flying witha dorsal structure resembling the Ericsson Erieye AESA system,as well as ventral radomes.With asimilar payload/volume to the C-130A,a Y-8 withan Erieye clone AEW&C system would beequivalent in performance and endurance to theC-130/Erieye proposals marketed during the late1990s.Imagery shows that the KJ-200 antennaassembly is much like the Swedish Ericsson PS-890,including the ram air-cooling system for thetransmit-receive modules.Like the Erieye,theKJ-200 cannot provide coverage over the nose,but due to large aperture size will have excellentbroadside power-aperture ratings and angularresolution.Given the similar size and platforms used for thetwo smaller AEW&C systems,it is a reasonableassessment that the rotodome system wasdeveloped as a risk hedge in the event that theKJ-200 AESA was too difficult to develop.Press reports from Pakistan and India indicatethat China recently signed a deal with Pakistan tosupply an unspecified number of AEW&C aircraft.Given reports that Pakistan was to acquire theSAAB/Ericsson Erieye system,it is not entirelyclear what Pakistan intends,or which of the threeChinese systems was sought.India’s acquisitionof the A-50I would be a strong incentive forPakistan to acquire the KJ-2000 to matchcapability.It remains to be seen,longer term,which of thethree PLA AEW&C systems become operational,and which of these will proliferate in the globalexport market.Clients who do not want thepolitical strings attached to US or EU products,orthe cost of a Russian or Israeli product,may wellfind a Chinese AEW&C offering attractive.
The Y-8 AEW&C prototype using a conventional radar and rotodome (via Internet) The KJ-200 or 'Y-8 Balanced Beam' AEW&C prototype (Via Internet) 
China’s Aerial Refuelling TankerPrograms
By the end of this decade China will be operatinga mixed tanker fleet,comprising at least twotanker variants of the indigenous H-6 Badger,and imported Russian Ilyushin Il-78MK Midastankers based on the Il-76 Candid airframe.China,like Australia,was a late entrant in the airrefuelling game.At this time the PLA operatestwo distinct tanker variants of the Badger.It should come as no surprise that the Badgerwas the basis of China’s first operational tankeraircraft.China initiated production of clonedTupolev Tu-16K Badgers during the late 1960s,and conducted an extended series production-build until the late 1980s to supply Badgers tothe PLA-AF,the PLA-N and export clients.XAC(Xian) built around 120 airframes for the PLA.Initially,these were direct clones of the Tu-16K with the Soviet search radar,armed with dumbbombs or nuclear bombs,later anti-shippingstrike H-6D/B-6D with a larger Chinese Type 245radar,adapted from the Soviet ‘Square Tie’missile boat engagement radar and armed witha pair of large YJ-6/C-601 Kraken ASMs,clonedfrom the Soviet P-15 Styx ASCM (basicallytransplanted from a Soviet fast missile boat intothe Badger design).Four B-6Ds were exported toSaddam’s Iraq,and XAC spare parts sustainedthe Eqyptian Tu-16K fleet until its recentretirement.In terms of performance and history,the Badgeris a contemporary of the British V-bombers andcompares best to the Vickers Valiant B.1 in size,weight,installed thrust and basic performance.Until recently,all Badgers were powered byvariants of the Mikulin RD-3M,cloned in Chinaas the Wopen WP-8,rated in the 20,000 lb class.The PLA Badger saga continues,with a tankerconversion engineered during the late 1980s andproduction restarted post-2001.The first newproduction Badgers were the H-6H,armed with aStyx derivative KD-63 TV/datalink guided cruisemissile.The H-6H was soon followed by the H-6M,with four outboard wing pylons and built tocarry four YJ-83/YJ-62 class anti-ship cruisemissiles and possibly land attack derivatives.This year,photos emerged of a third new buildvariant in test,the H-6K cruise missile carrierwith six wing pylons and a new technologyturbofan engine.China’s tanker conversion was the result of anMoU signed withFRL Ltd in the UK in 1986.The resultof this effort wasan adaptation ofthe H-6 design,with twoindigenous pylonmounted RDC-1hose/ drogue podsresembling olderFRL Mk.32 pods,these pods weredesigned by the China Research Institute of Aero Accessories.With around 167,300 lb (75,800 kg) MTOW,82,000 lb (37,150 kg) BEW and an internal fuelpayload of about 85,000 lb (38600 kg) using abomb-bay tank to supplant a 20,000 lb (9,000kg) internal bomb payload,the Badger makes fora reasonable tanker in the size and offload classof the British V-bomber tanker conversions.Witha total fuel uplift at MTOW about one half of aKC-135E/R,each Badger in practical terms canadequately support only two fighters.The PLA has never disclosed the exact number ofH-6 Badgers converted to tankers ,nor propertechnical detail on the configuration of thetanker.The aircraft is claimed to have dual INSand dual RSBN TACAN beacons.
The Badger is a very close equivalent to the long retired RAF Vickers Valiant B(K).1PLA-AF H-6U Badger, note the revised nose.

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