Chinese KJ-600 Performs Maiden Flight

Chinese KJ-600 Performs Maiden Flight 8 September, 2020


China’s KJ-600 carrier-based Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft performed its first flight on August 28th. China became the second country other than the United States to have successfully developed such a platform. China announced it was developing a sixth AEW&C plane, the KJ-600. China had been working on building its AEW&C jet since the 1960s with relatively little success.

Chinese state media confirmed what foreign media outlets and social media handles had been reporting for days: The first flight of a new airborne early warning aircraft. The Global Times daily reported on Tuesday that the new airborne early-warning aircraft, "reportedly called the KJ-600", made its maiden flight in late August.

The plane resembles Northrop Grumman's E-2 Hawkeye: a prop-driven, all-weather, carrier-capable early warning aircraft in service since the 1960s. The KJ-600 would be fitted an advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. US E-2 Hawkeye platform is deployed at U.S. Navy supercarriers, and French medium carrier Charles De Gaulle.

The KJ-600 is expected to provide the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s carrier air wings with at least a peer level of situational awareness. Chinese shipyards are currently constructing two Type 002 Class supercarriers, which will be the first outside the United States to integrate electromagnetic catapult launch systems allowing them to deploy heavier aircraft including fighters with more fuel and munitions as well as large AEW aircraft.

As China's two current aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and Shandong, also lack catapults. The third aircraft carrier will displace over 80,000 tonnes and could incorporate catapults to launch heavy aircraft like the KJ-600. The KJ-600 won't fly from China's existing aircraft carriers, Liaoning and Shandong, as both of these use ski jumps to lift fighter jets into flight. Propeller planes like the E-2 Hawkeye and KJ-600 simply can't generate enough power to take off on such a short runway.

An airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft can be deployed as a command centre in the sky, gathering information and coordinating vessels into a stronger strike force. If China's Navy early warning aircraft can achieve the equivalent of E-2D in the future, it will not only greatly enhance the capability of the aircraft carrier formation to remotely detect, alert, guide and counter-steal the aircraft, but also theoretically guide the formation of the aircraft carrier's frigate equipment Anti-aircraft missiles and anti-ship missiles for ultra-horizon attacks, which greatly enhance the capacity of aircraft carrier formation against saturation attacks.

Built by the Xian Aircraft Corporation, the KJ-600 weighs 25-30 tons and is powered by twin-engine FWJ-6C turboprop engines. The KJ-600 is based on the experience gained from the earlier JZY-01 technology demonstrator. It is reported that KJ-600 may have 5-6 crew members, including captain and co-pilot and flight crew operating radar and combat control systems. Given the current capabilities of combat data communications in China and plans, the KJ-600 may guide multiple batches of aircraft in an interception and air combat and consolidate data from multiple platforms to aid long-range missile aiming. The Chinese JY-26 ground-based radar has been improved in signal processing capabilities, KJ-600 with similar technology will be able to detect some aspects and range of stealth aircraft. The KJ-600 also enhances the capabilities of ground systems if connected to the Internet.

The carrier-based fixed-wing early warning aircraft are necessary for the aircraft carrier's formation to independently carry out high-intensity air operations in the distant sea. At present, the early warning helicopters used by Liaoning Ship have problems of short-range, low flight altitude, low speed and near detection range. Helicopters deployed on China's aircraft carriers can only carry smaller radars, and only cover a radius of about 200 kilometres, while a fixed-wing early-warning aircraft can cover about 400 to 500 kilometres.

Chinese KJ-600 Performs Maiden Flight

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