Surveillance Aircraft I

KJ-2000 Mainring

A PLAAF KJ-2000 AWACS was photographed while making a low flying pass during the 2014 Zhuhai Airshow. Its prototype was first spotted undergoing testing in Nanjing in 2003, carrying a CFTE emblem (S/N 762). The KJ-2000 prototype was based on Russian A-50I airframe but fitted with an indigenous AEW and a C4ISR system, including ARINC429 databus, IFF and datalink. The AEW system, developed by Nanjing Research Institute of Electronic Technology/14th Institute, is presumably similar to the Israeli Phalcon system. It was reported that the system can track 60-100 aerial targets simultaneously with a max range of 470km. The aircraft features a fixed rotodome housing three AESA antennas in a triangular configuration. As the result a 360° radar coverage can be achieved. A SATCOM antenna is installed inside the fairing on top of the forward cabin. Two large angled ventral fins are attached underneath the tail to compensate the impact of rotodome on aircraft handling. KJ-2000 is able to patrol in the air for up to 12 hours with a max range of 5,500km. A nose-mounted IFR probe (on #762 only) suggests its operations could be further extended with the tanker (Il-78) support. Following the humiliation of the cancelled A-50I/Phalcon contract with Israel in 2000, China salvaged this A-50I prototype from Israel via Russia in 2002 the Phalcon system removed. It was reported that a significant amount of resources have been invested into this high-priority project (Project 998?) at the 603 Institute/XAC/14th Institute following an executive order issued by the Chinese President. The compete system first flew on November 11, 2003 as KJ-2000 after overcoming various technical difficulties. The production KJ-2000s were converted from the China United Airline Il-76MD transport fleet (B-4040 - B-4043), starting from B-4043. The first two KJ-2000s were handed over to PLAAF in 2005. The design was certified in 2007. Currently all 4 KJ-2000s are stationed in Jiangsu Province, facing Japan and Taiwan (S/N 30071-30074). However further conversion from Il-76MD ended due to the limited quantity available. KJ-2000 is expected to be replaced by the new KJ-3000 under development which is based on the indigenous Y-20 transport aircraft. The new AESA radar will also be the product of the 14th Institute.
- Last Updated 1/4/17

Y-8X Cub

Y-8X is PLAN's first long-range maritime patrol aircraft (range 5,000km). It is equipped with an American Litton AN/APS-504(V)3 surface search radar in an enlarged undernose radome plus western navigational systems for long range patrols over the sea. The aircraft also has two large SLR cameras installed in the rear cargo bay. Around 3 Y-8Xs are believed in service with PLA Naval Aviation (S/N 9261-9291, 9281 later converted to Y-8J) stationed in Shangdong Province. They have been carrying out routine long-range ELINT missions near the coast of Japan and South Korea, prompting interceptions by F-15s and F-16s from the two countries. Some Y-8Xs (Y-8XG? 9271 & 9291) have been upgraded with a FLIR turret installed underneath the forward fuselage as well as small white bar-shaped ECM antennas on both sides of the forward fuselage. A canoe shaped fairing was seen attached to the bottom of middle fuselage, which could house a new SAR radar (KLC-9?). The aircraft also has RWR antennas installed on its vertical tail fin and tail cone.
- Last Updated 5/13/16

Y-8J Cub

This airborne early warning (AEW) variant of Y-8 (Project 515) was first spotted near Shanghai in 2000. It features a Skymaster surveillance radar housed in a enlarged, partially dropped nose radome, a configuration similar to the smaller Britten Norman Defender twin turboprop for ground and maritime patrol and AEW roles. 6-8 sets of this radar system were purchased by China in 1996 from UK's Racal for $66m. The Skymaster radar has a maximum detection range of 400km. A total of 100 aerial targets can be tracked simultaneously. Y-8J also has a limited C&C capability. The control center can direct up to 6 aircraft to intercept enemy aircraft with around 4 display consoles in a small pressurized cabin. It can also provide target information to surface ships and submarines via datalink. The first prototype flew on September 26, 1998. So far 4 Y-8J AEW platforms (S/N 9281, 9301, 9311, 9321) were converted by Shannxi Aircraft Industry Corporation (SAC) and all are in service with PLAN. They have been flying routine ELINT missions over the East China Sea facing Japan. It was speculated that the aircraft could be used to provide targeting information for long-range anti-ship missiles, but this has not been confirmed. This AEW variant is believed to be less capable than the KJ-200 AWACS just entering service with PLAN but can be viewed as a stop-gap measure. Recent images (December 2014) indicated that a dorsal SATCOM antenna has been installed. Some (S/N 9311 & 9321) were seen having two small windows installed underneath the tail possibly for photo-reconnaissance purpose.
- Last Updated 7/17/16

Y-8CB Cub/High New 1

The Y-8CB ELINT variant (K/JYZ-8) was first spotted in Nanjing, Jiangshu Province in July 2005. It is the first of the ever growing High New series "special purpose aircraft" based on the Y-8 "Category I Platform" and developed by SAC. The aircraft features a ventral canoe fairing underneath the forward fuselage which may house a large ELINT antenna. An antenna array consisting of several rows of smaller antennas can be seen protruding out of the rear loading ramp, which is thought to have been sealed. More fairings and antennas are located under the fuselage between the main landing gear compartments as well as on top of the fuselage, including a pair of grid antennas. The aircraft may carry a BM/KZ800 ELINT system which can detect, record, locate and analyze enemy radar, EW and communication signals. The Y-8CB prototype first flew on January 26, 2000. All Y-8CBs (S/N 30011, 30012, 20671, 30511) are in service with PLAAF. Some have been upgraded with additional equipment including a dorsal SATCOM antenna to provide a datalink to the ground base. The latest image (September 2016) indicated that Y-8CB has been flying ELINT missions over the East China Sea near Japan. The aircraft appears to have a new dorsal SATCOM antenna installed.
- Last Updated 12/12/16

Y-8JB Cub/High New 2

Another ELINT version of Y-8 was first spotted in Summer 2004 near Shanghai and was identified as Y-8JB. Based on the Y-8 "Category I Platform", the aircraft features a large chin mounted radome which may house a large surface search radar. A SATCOM antenna was installed inside a large semi-spherical dorsal fairing ahead of the vertical tailfin providing real-time datalink to the ground base. More fairings and antennas including a pair of grid antennas can be seen on top of the fuselage as well as at the nose tip. The loading ramp appears to have been sealed. Similar to Y-8CB, Y-8JB is believed to have been fitted with a BM/KZ800 ELINT system (frequency 1-18GHz, range 300km), which includes at least 4 display consoles located in a pressurized cabin. There were speculations that some technologies of this system may have come from the American EP-3 ELINT aircraft force-landed in Hainan Island in April 2001, suggesting that Chinese may have managed to decipher at least part of the top-secret US ELINT hardware and software (AN/ALD-9) onboard EP-3. The Y-8JB prototype first flew on August 26, 2003 at SAC. All 4 Y-8JBs (S/N 9331, 9341, 9351, 9361) are in service with PLA Naval Aviation. They have been flying routine ELINT missions near Japan and South Korea. A Y-8 ELINT variant carrying a simplified KZ800 ELINT system was offered for export in 2008 and a prototype has flown. Recent images (February 2015) suggested that the aircraft was upgraded with two large rectangular shaped fairings on both sides of the rear fuselage similar to those ELINT antennas onboard Y-9JB, plus a rear-facing antenna on top of the vertical tailfin. Y-8JB is expected to be replaced by the new Y-9JB.
- Last Updated 8/25/16

Y-8G Cub/High New 3

The new Y-8G (K/JYG8) ECM variant was first unveiled during Chinese Vice Prime Minister's visit to SAC in April 2005. Based on the "Y-8 Category II Platform", the aircraft features a solid nose and two large cheek fairings of an arch shape which may house large ECM antenna array for long-range electronic/communication jamming purpose. The ECM antenna array may have been the product of the 14th Institute. The Y-8G is also speculated to have a downgraded KZ800 ELINT system installed, which provides the ELINT information (frequency/location) to the ECM jammer. The large fairing on top of the vertical tailfin as well as the cylindrical fairing underneath the forward fuselage are believed to be associated with the ELINT system. The Y-8G prototype first flew in late 2004. Currently the initial batch of five Y-8Gs are in service with PLAAF (S/N 30x1x) in Southwest China facing India. Additional three Y-8Gs are also the service with PLAAF (S/N 2077x). The latest image (November 2016) indicated that the radome and ECM antenna fairings onboard Y-8G have been painted dark grey.
 - Last Updated 11/20/16

Y-8T Cub/High New 4

A Y-8T airborne command post is shown here. Based on the Y-8 "Category I Platform", It has a redesigned real fuselage section with the loading ramp and tail gun turret removed. The aircraft also features a dorsal fairing aft the wing section which might house a SATCOM antenna. Multiple communication antenna arrays can be seen planted along the top and bottom of the fuselage, as well as on the vertical tailfin. Y-8T command post prototype first flew in August 2004 and is expected to provide better coordination for PLAAF air operations. Currently 5 Y-8Ts (S/N 30271, 30272, 30273, 30274, 30276) are in service with PLAAF. A recent rumor (January 2015) suggested that the next generation airborne command post is under development based on the Y-9 platform (High New 12?).
- Last Updated 3/10/17

Y-8W/KJ-200 Cub/High New 5

A PLAAF Y-8W (K/JE03) AWACS aircraft wearing a blue/gray camouflage color scheme is shown here. This so-called "Balanced Beam Testbed" bears some resemblance to the Swedish Saab 340 AWACS aircraft with its electronically scanning phased array radar (JY-06) inside a large rectangular fairing carried above the fuselage. The AESA radar is the product of the 38th Institute. However the radar in "balance beam" configuration is unable to scan directly the forward and rear directions of the aircraft thus lacks the full 360° coverage. The first Y-8 "Balance Beam Testbed" prototype took off on November 8, 2001 at SAC, after converted from a Y-8F-200 transport aircraft. The production version (also named KJ-200) is based on the new Y-8 "Category III Platform" which has a redesigned fuselage with a solid nose and a new tail section with the loading ramp removed. Two radomes are located at the nose tip and tailcone which might house additional AEW antennas. More fairings can be seen at the wingtips and on top of the tailfin housing ESM antennas. A series of small antennas are located on top of the forward fuselage. It also has an integrated wing fuel tank and 4 high-efficiency JL-4 6-blade propellers giving the aircraft a longer range (~5,000km) and less noise. The C3I center is composed of around 8 display consoles in a large pressurized cabin. A new integrated digital avionics system based on ARINC429 and RS422 data bus has been installed. The aircraft also features a glass cockpit. This new type first flew on January 14, 2005 at SAC. Both KJ-200 and KJ-2000 have demonstrated China's determination to acquire indigenous AWACS capability after the earlier A-50I setback. They were developed in a high-low combination and is expected to coordinate J-7G, J-8F, J-10, J-11B, JH-7A and H-6M/K via datalink. Initially two prototypes were evaluated by PLAAF. However #2 Y-8W crashed on June 3, 2006 due to wing surface icing -- a serious blow to the indigenous AWACS effort. The production resumed one year later after some redesign work, including strengthened fuselage and attaching small vertical plates to the tips of its horizontal tailfins. With those plates the aircraft is able to maintain the critical stability during a single engine failure. At least 5 Y-8Ws have been produced for PLAAF (30171, 30173-30176). PLAN also has taken delivery of around 6 Y-8Ws (Y-8WH/HJ-200? S/N 9371, 9381, 9391, 9401, 9411, 9421). KJ-200 is expected to be replaced by the new KJ-500 currently entering the service. KJ-200 was first offered for export as ZDK-06 at the 2016 Zhuhai Airshow. The latest image (December 2016) indicated that at least one KJ-200 has been upgraded. Compared to the original design, this new version (KJ-200A?) features a nose mounted AEW radar antenna, which could give the aircraft a better coverage in the forward hemisphere. As the result the chin mounted weather radar has been removed. It is possible that all remaining KJ-200s will be upgraded to the KJ-200A standard.
- Last Updated 12/19/16

Y-8Q/KQ-200 Cub/High New 6

This much-needed ASW variant of Y-8 (KQ-200/High New 6) similar to American P-3C has been under development since 2007. The aircraft is believed to be based on Y-8 "Category III Platform" with a fully pressurized cabin, 4 WJ-6E turbofan engines with 6-blade high efficiency propellers and horizontal tailplanes with small vertical stabilizers. It also features a large chin radome housing a surface search radar which might be based on the British Skymaster surveillance radar installed on Y-8J (similar to Searchwater 2000). An EO turret was installed underneath the forward fuselage housing a FLIR, CCD TV camera and laser rangefinder. A series of blade antennas are seen on top of and underneath the fuselage for communication purpose, including receiving signals from sonobuoys. Two pairs of RWR antennas are installed at the tip of the vertical tailfin. A pair of MAWS sensors are installed on the forward fuselage aft the cabin door. The most noticeable feature of Y-8Q is a MAD sting on its tail. Its lower fuselage in the mid-section of the aircraft was modified extensively to house an internal bomb bay for carrying depth charges, light torpedos (up to 8 Yu-11K?). It may also carry AShMs (up to 4 YJ-83K?) under the wings. Two large bubble windows were installed in the rear fuselage for observation purpose. The aircraft is capable of dropping newly developed sonobuoys through the four launch tubes located aft the internal bomb bay. As a dedicated long-range ASW aircraft, Y-8Q has a range of up to 5,000km and a patrol time of up to 10 hours. Two prototypes have been built by SAC (S/N 731 & 732). Y-8Q is believed to be the first combat aircraft in the Y-8 series, and is thought to be capable of coordinating with future Chinese CVBG via secure datalink and extending the defense further away against enemy submarines and small surface ships. A recent image (April 2015) indicated that the first two Y-8Qs have been handed over to PLAN after several years of testing (S/N 85191 & 85192). Around 4 are in service by mid-2016.
- Last Updated 10/16/16

Y-8XZ Cub/High New 7

A new Y-8 psychological warfare (XZ) variant was unveiled in April 2008 as one of the newest members of the "High New" series (High New 7/K/YXZ8?). Based on the Y-8 "Category II Platform", the aircraft features large fairings located forward of the main landing gear compartments, and two large plate antennas on each side of the rear fuselage. Other features include two blade antennas on both sides of the vertical tailfin, a wire antenna underneath the rear fuselage, a large SATCOM antenna on top of the rear fuselage. Y-8XZ was developed to conduct psychological operations against enemy audience. It has high power broadcast equipment covering AM, FM, SW, TV plus various civilian and military communication bands, able to jam enemy communications as well as disrupt and demoralize enemy with overwhelming propaganda broadcasting. At least two Y-8XZs has been in service with PLAAF (S/N 3101x) since end of 2007 and is similar to American EC-130E Rivet Rider. 
- Last Updated 12/31/14

Y-9JB High New 8

This member of the "High New" series was first spotted in April 2011 at CFTE (S/N 720?). Unlike Y-8W, Y-9JB is based on the new Y-9 platform powered by four WJ-6C turboprop engines with 6-blade high efficiency propellers. As an ELINT aircraft it features four large rectangular bar shaped ELINT antennas on both sides of the forward and rear fuselage. They are believed to be part of an advanced integrated ELINT system. Additional antennas are installed inside fairings at the wingtips, beneath and on top of the mid-fuselage, on top of the vertical tailfin, underneath the nose as well as inside the nose/tail cone. Four blade antennas are installed on top of the wing near the wing root. An EO turret (containing FLIR/TV) is also mounted underneath the fuselage for surveillance purpose. Y-9JB has been speculated as an advanced ELINT platform similar to American EP-3. At least two Y-9JBs were constructed by spring 2012. The first Y-9JB entered the service with PLAN in early 2013. Currently 4 are in service (S/N 9211, 9221, 9231, 9241). They have been flying routine ELINT missions over the East China Sea near Japan.
- Last Updated 10/10/16