China ramps up production of new airborne early warning aircraft

China has ramped up production of its newest airborne early warning aircraft, Shaanxi KJ-500, in what an expert on Chinese military aviation says is a sign of the platform’s maturity. (China’s Ministry of National Defense)

SINGAPORE – China has ramped up production of its newest airborne early warning aircraft, in what an expert on Chinese military aviation says is a sign of the platform’s maturity.

Recent satellite photos show eight Shaanxi KJ-500 airborne early warning and control, or AEW&C aircraft at the company’s factory airfield at Hanzhong, Shaanxi Province in mid-December 2017. The aircraft were undergoing testing before delivery to China’s military.

These aircraft will join at least four KJ-500s already in service with China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force or PLAAF and a similar number already in service with the naval aviation units, according to Andreas Rupprecht, who has authored several books on China’s military aviation and industry.

Three People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN, KJ-500s were seen on satellite photos of the airbase at Lingshui on the Chinese island province of Hainan by December 2017, on the fringes of the South China Sea. Satellite imagery released by Stratfor has also revealed the PLAAF has deployed KJ-500s to Lhasa-Gonggar Airport in Tibet, 200 miles from the Doklam Plateau where a standoff between Chinese and Indian troops over the disputed border occurred in 2017.

Rupprecht told Defense News the dramatic ramp up of KJ-500 is part of pattern of similar increases in production of the Y-9 turboprop airlifter and its derivatives, which include anti-submarine, electronic warfare, and other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance variants, adding that this is an indication that the KJ-500 design is mature enough to be the standard AEW&C platform in both the PLAAF and PLAN.

The KJ-500 has a fixed dorsal rotodome containing three radar arrays each containing active electronically scanned array or AESA radars arranged in a triangular configuration to give full 360° coverage. The new radar design supplants the “balance beam” design used on the earlier Shaanxi KJ-200 AEW&C aircraft.

The radar is reportedly designed by China’s 38th Research Institute of the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, and is said to be smaller and lighter than the rotodome fitted on China’s KJ-2000 AEW&C platform based on the Russian Ilyushin Il-76 jet airlifter. China has built four KJ-2000s and at least 11 KJ-200s based on the Y-8 airlifter, with both types entering service in the mid-2000s.

Source: Defense News “China ramps up production of new airborne early warning aircraft”

Note: This is Defense News’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Why America’s stealth jet forces should fear China’s new unarmed eye in the sky

The Chinese military is developing a carrier-based early-warning plane that will be fitted with radar to detect the most advanced aircraft at longer range

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2018, 7:28am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2018, 7:28am

China is developing a surveillance plane designed to be launched from the country’s newest aircraft carrier and fitted with a radar system to spot enemy stealth jets, military observers say.

State media confirmed for the first time on Monday that China was building its first carrier-borne early-warning plane called the KJ-600.

The announcement comes as the United States has deployed F-35 stealth jets to bases in Japan and other parts of the Asia-Pacific over the last year, challenging China’s air defences in the region.

Chinese military observers said the KJ-600 would be fitted an advanced active electronically scanned array, or AESA, radar which could enable it to spot stealth aircraft such as US F-22s and F-35s.

Beijing-based military expert Li Jie said the new surveillance plane could also become a command centre in the air.

“AESA can detect stealth fighters at a very long range,” Li said.

He said the aircraft would fill a critical weapons gap with the US and improve the combat effectiveness of Chinese carrier battle groups.

Li said the KJ-600 would likely be used on China’s third aircraft carrier under construction in Shanghai and be compatible with its advanced electromagnetic launch system (EMALS). EMALS can launch jets more quickly and effectively than the ski-jump ramps used on China’s first two aircraft carriers.

US-based military website Eastern Arsenal reported last year that the KJ-600 was being built by Xi’an Aircraft Corporation, weighed 25-30 tonnes, was powered by twin turboprop engines, and had a large AESA radar on its fuselage.

Military analysts said photographs of the KJ-600 suggested it was very similar to the E-2 Hawkeye, the US’ all-weather, carrier-capable tactical airborne early-warning aircraft.

Military analyst Zhou Chenming, also based in Beijing, said the KJ-600 radar system would put the plane on a par with US early-warning aircraft.

“The biggest advantage of the KJ-600 is it’s equipped with a more sophisticated radar and communication system allowing it to monitor a wider range of signals and even detect stealth fighters in a certain angle,” Zhou said.

For now, China’s aircraft carrier combat group is restricted to shipboard surveillance radars, which have a limited range because of the Earth’s curvature.

Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies’ Maritime Security Programme at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said the development of the KJ-600 suggested China wanted its carrier group to function far from shore.

“If China’s carrier group is designed more to operate closer to home waters, it would rely on shore-based early warning support,” Koh said.

“But with [the early-warning] planes, it implies that the People’s Liberation Army Navy carrier battle group is designed for distant sea operations … requiring … a more comprehensive early-warning umbrella.”

But Li and Zhou disagreed over whether the KJ-600 would also be used on China’s first two aircraft carriers.

Li said surveillance helicopters were a better option while Zhou said the KJ-600 could be equipped with a one-off rocket propeller to launch from the vessels’ ski-jump ramps.

Source: SCMP “Why America’s stealth jet forces should fear China’s new unarmed eye in the sky”

Note: This is SCMP’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

The Conundrum of China’s Fast Development of Space Technology

A screenshot from CCTV shows the parachute deployed above the Shenzhou-11 landing craft. Photo: SCMP Pictures

A screenshot from CCTV shows the parachute deployed above the Shenzhou-11 landing craft. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Technicians examine the Shenzhou-11 re-entry capsule in Inner Mongolia on Friday. Photo: Xinhua

Technicians examine the Shenzhou-11 re-entry capsule in Inner Mongolia on Friday. Photo: Xinhua

The astronauts are shown inside the landing pod. Photo: SCMP Pictures

The astronauts are shown inside the landing pod. Photo: SCMP Pictures

We have news that two Chinese astronauts safely returned to earth after one-month stay at China’s space laboratory Tiangong-2.

Reuters says in its report on the event titled “China’s Shenzhou 11 manned space capsule returns to Earth” on Nov. 18, “The two astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, spent 30 days aboard the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, or ‘Heavenly Palace 2’, which China is using to carry out experiments ahead of a longer-range plan to have a permanent manned space station around 2022.”

China has the ambition to establish itself as a space power as President Xi Jinping has called for the country to do so. Reuters says, “China will launch a ‘core module’ for its first space station some time around 2018, a senior official said in April, part of a plan for a permanent manned space station in service around 2022.”

In its report “Touchdown for Chinese astronauts after record space mission”, SCMP says that Australia-based space analyst Morris Jones was surprised by China’s progress on hardware. According to him the main challenge was to ensure the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft was able to function for more than a month in orbit.

According to Morris Jones, Shenzhou-11 was subject to the hazards of space in the month it remained docked with Tiangong-2 for the astronauts to use it to travel back to earth.

SCMP quotes him as saying,“Temperature shifts. Micrometeoroid bombardments. Mechanical wear. Small differences in performance that don’t have major effects with equipment on earth can have major effects on spacecraft.”

For a space station, China needs to have a spacecraft to stay docked with the station for a long time for transport of astronauts; therefore, the safety of the spacecraft is essential. China has made progress in that respect by enabling Shenzhou-11 to stay for one month in Tiangong-2.

It is interesting that in 2007, China wanted to participate in the International Space Station (ISS) but was rejected by the US for fear that China may learn space technology from the US through the participation.

In order to further prevent China from learning from US space technology, in April 2011, the 112th United States Congress banned NASA from engaging in bilateral agreements and coordination with China. Public Law 112-55, SEC. 539 says:

None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) or the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China.

— Public Law 112-55, SEC. 539

When the US rejects China’s participation in ISS and adopted the law to prevent China from learning space technology from the US, it believes that China will thus be kept lagging decades behind the US in space technology. Now, only a decade after the adoption of the legislation to contain China in space, China will soon have its own space station while the ISS will soon retire, leaving the US without access to space station as it lacks fund to build a new one.

For the US, China’s fast development of space strategy is now a conundrum, something undesirable and unthinkable and something unbelievable but Americans have to believe to be true.

In fact, it’s a conundrum only to those who do not know Chinese culture. There is a well-known Chinese saying:

Scholar Can Be Killed But Not Insulted

Here “scholar” means Shi (士in Chinese). Shi is a Chinese word standing for not only scholars but also wise self-educated workers and peasants, talented military commanders, kung fu masters, chivalrous swordsmen, etc. It is translated as scholars because scholars are the major part of shi and there is no equivalent term in English. Scholars may sometimes keep a low profile, but even kings do not dare to insult them. Why? Because you do not know what a shi is able to do in revenge. Therefore, it is better for a sovereign to kill him instead of insulting him.

There were quite a few stories of scholars’ sensational revenges including the whipping of a king’s copse and the assassination of an emperor.

Wang Xiaomo’s Revenge in Making World Best AEW&C Planes

China had been developing early warning aircraft since early 1960s without much success. By 1990s, China’s top radar scientist Wang Xiaomo finally managed to make an early warning aircraft for China, but its performance was so poor that China refused to produce any of its copies. Instead, China decided to import some from abroad. However, in the 1990s only the US and Israel were able to build early warning aircraft, but neither of them was willing to export them.

Due to Shanghai people’s kindness in helping Jews imprisoned in Japanese concentration camp during World War II, Israel entered into a contract to sell China four early warning aircrafts as a special favor, but was forced to cancel the contract under US pressure.

Wang Xiaomo felt greatly humiliated. He had been looked down by the US and regarded as being entirely unable to make a usable early warning aircraft. Previously he had perhaps lost confidence in his ability to make such an aircraft and decided to rely on Israel, but US insult stimulated him and caused him to work hard with the determination to make a good early warning aircraft to retaliate US insult.

Before Israeli cancel of the sales contract, Chinese government allocated almost all its funds for the import of early warning aircrafts and is not willing to provide Wang with much fund. Since the cancellation, China had no alternative but to develop its homegrown early warning aircrafts as such aircrafts are indispensable for the modernization of Chinese military. Wang was provided with abundant fund.

In addition, previous disappointment at Wang’s failure was turned into respect and dependence as Wang was China’s best radar scientist who China had to rely on to satisfy its urgent needs for early warning aircrafts.

Wang’s hard work and dedication finally paid. In November 2003, he succeeded in developing China’s KJ-2000 early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft much better than the Israeli one China intended but failed to import. KJ-2000 began operational service in 2006 after extensive flight and radar testing. Some experts were of the opinion that KJ-2000 was more advanced than US E3C as it was the first to use phase resonance radar.

Wang later developed KJ-500 regarded as one of the best AEW&C aircrafts in the world and thus satisfactorily completed his retaliation at US insult.

Scholars Revenge at US Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ Insult

In 2009, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates looked down on China and said that China was unable to have a stealth warplane before 2020.

China’s aircraft designers and engineers took the insult seriously and worked hard to make China’s stealth warplanes. Due to the talents given play by the insult, they successfully conducted maiden flight of China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet in January 2011 when Gates was visiting China. The timing of the test was obviously their retaliation at Gates’ insult.

Now they have conducted lots of tests of the prototypes, series produced J-20s and showed off two J-20s on November 1 at Zhuhai Airshow. They will certainly make their J-20 successful to complete their retaliation.

The US finds comfort in alleging that Wang Xiaomo has got secret help from Israel and China has stolen US technology through hacking in building its stealth fighter jet. What can the US find to comfort itself about China’s quick catching up with the US in space technology?

Has NASA ever been hacked or lost secret to China due to espionage? No news about that. It was US insult that has played a terrific role in helping China catch up with the US in technology.

China is catching up with the US quickly, but do you not find that it has caught up especially fast in the areas where Chinese scholars have been insulted by the US.

If American officials had known that well-known Chinese saying, they would not have stimulated Chinese scholars with the insults and enabled them to achieve technological progress much faster contrary to US desire.

Comments by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ and SCMP’s reports, full text of which can respectively found at and

China’s New KJ-500 AEW&C Makes F22 Unable to Come Near China

Chian's new KJ-500 AEW&C aircraft

Chian’s new KJ-500 AEW&C aircraft

KJ-500 is China’s new generation of AEW&C aircraft. It is the first early warning aircraft in the world that uses digital phased array radar and other new technology that perhaps enables it to detect such stealth warplanes as F22. We do not know exactly whether it is able to detect a stealth warplane as the true functions of KJ-500 is kept strictly confidential.

However, so far it is known that its radar has a range of 470 km. As F22 uses an active phased array radar that has only a range of 300 km, it will be discovered by a KJ-500 470 km away if its radar is switched on long before it is able to detect the KJ-500.

The chain of data it has collected will be sent to the command/control center through communication satellite and then be sent to various combat platforms. Generally speaking, a KJ-500 can direct 100 fighters to fight a coordinated battle.

It has three groups of new-type phased array radar that greatly increase the range of its surveillance, the number of targets it can track and the number and batches of fighter jets it can direct.

All the key parts of KJ-500 including all the parts of its radar are made by China on its own so that China is entirely able to make KJ-500 independently.

Source: “Depth Column: PLA is equipped with a super weapon that makes F22 dare not come near China” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

China’s New KJ-500 AEW&C Smaller but Much Better than KJ-2000

KJ-500, China's most advanced AEW$C in service

KJ-500, China’s most advanced AEW$C in service

KJ-2000 AEWC, 2014 Zhuhai Airshow (Photo: Wendell Minnick)

KJ-2000 AEW&C, 2014 Zhuhai Airshow (Photo: Wendell Minnick)

KJ-200 AEW&C, 2012 Zhuhai Airshow (Photo: Wendell Minnick)

KJ-200 AEW&C, 2012 Zhuhai Airshow (Photo: Wendell Minnick)

In an interview with government’s media Xinhua, Xiong Qunli, Chairman of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), says that China’s newest AEW&C KJ-500 that China showcased for the first time in its September military parade is smaller than KJ-2000 but with much higher intelligence procession and anti-jamming capabilities. It has a much smaller antenna and lighter equipment so that it can be installed in China’s homegrown Y-9 transport aircraft smaller than the imported IL-76 that KJ-2000 uses as platform. That is possible because KJ-500 uses world advanced digital phased array radar technology.

Mr. Xiong said the use of a Chinese platform enabled China to make KJ-500 entirely on its own.

US media Defense News says in its report “China Reveals Origin of AEWC Radar” that according to Mr. Xiong, the advanced radar has been developed by CETC’s subsidiary No. 38 Research Institute in Hefei, Anhui Province and that there are unconfirmed Chinese-language media reports that a more advanced variant of the KJ-2000 (KJ-3000) is now in development.

Source: Xinhua “KJ-500 uses homegrown platform for its equipment: Its radar has far better functions than that used by the AEW&Cs in service”

Source: Defense News “China Reveals Origin of AEWC Radar”, full text of which can be viewed at

China Has Developed Electromagnetic Catapult Rival to America’s

China's full-size prototype of electromagnetic catapult

China’s full-size prototype of electromagnetic catapult

Ma Weiming, leader of the team that has developed China's electromagnetic catapult that has won a top national award

Ma Weiming, leader of the team that has won top national award for the development of China’s electromagnetic catapult. Credit: @wuminggaodi

The catapult. Credit:@wuminggaodi

The catapult. Credit:@wuminggaodi

Chinese scientist has built a full-size prototype of electromagnetic catapult. The catapult has passed all the tests and has to be tested when it is installed on an aircraft carrier.

China’s electromagnetic catapult is much more powerful than steam catapult in being able to help heavy AEW&C aircraft take off.

Ma Weiming, the head of the team that has won a top national award for the invention, told reporter in an interview China does not lag behind the US in the development of electromagnetic catapult as the US began its project of such catapult in 2009 while China had built a prototype to prove the theory in 2011. Ma believes that China’s electromagnetic catapult is as good as US one and more advanced in some areas.

Source: “What always worries US military happens: China suddenly makes widely public the exciting news of its achievement in developing catapult for aircraft carrier” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

With Mass Production of Y-20, China Will Soon Have Strategic Air Force

Newest Y-20 prototype no. 785

Newest Y-20 prototype no. 785

The appearance on the Internet of photos of Y-20 no. 785, the fifth prototype of China’s large transport aircraft, indicates that China will soon begin mass production of large transport aircrafts to enable it to have a strategic air force.

Chinese media says that Y-20 is better than Russian Il-76 and in the main equal to US C-17. It can be used as platform for China’s AEW&C, electronic warfare, anti-submarine and refueling aircrafts.

Source: “In Depth: What does the appearance of the fifth Y-20 prototype signify? It means China will soon have a strategic air force” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)