A Naval AEW aircraft for China?


A Chinese E-2?

It’s not been long since the ultra-secretive J-20 was introduced in China back in January, the plane spotters have been at it again photoing yet another secretive aircraft…. which again bares some unmistakable characteristics.

Last year, China bought an incomplete carrier from Russia, allegedly named the Shi Lang. The ski-ramp equipped aircraft carrier boasts the usual refinements of a CIWS system, long range air defence missiles and can support upwards of 50 combat aircraft. Seagoing trials will be starting in late 2011. However, their is still some distinct elements that have been missing from their carrier strike package. The biggest, is their ability to provide an Airborne Early Warning and Control system.

This could be the answer, an aircraft that looks remarkably like the E-2 Hawkeye. The ‘smartie’ on the top, is a long range surveillance radar that only Russia, Sweden and Israel (with help) have so far replicated. Pakistan and China signed a $278m deal to jointly develop an AWACS system in 2008, so its not beyond reason that we are now seeing the first operational tests of such a project.

This could mean massive progress has been made in China. Combine the further details emerging of the J-15, the ‘carrier-killer’ J-20 and possibly the navalised J-19. There is growing speculation that their carrier programme could be a mere year away from being the most advanced in the pacific region.

Images via China Defense Blog

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