China is likely to develop a new-generation airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft based on the locally-made Y-20 multi-purpose transport plane inducted into the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force earlier this year.
"It is indeed possible that China will modify the AEW&C aircraft based on Y-20, which conforms to the laws on technical development of AEW&C aircraft around the world," Military expert Wang Mingliang said in an interview with the People's Daily Online.
The Xian Y-20 large transport aircraft, the first Chinese designed 200-ton-class, multi-purpose, large transport aircraft, was officially commissioned in the PLA Air Force in July this year. It can be configured for airborne early warning and control (AEW&C), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and aerial refuelling missions.
According to China Military Online, the Chinese Air Force currently has KJ-200, KJ-2000 and KJ-500, the first two being the earliest AEW&C aircraft of China. They use different radar antenna, and KJ-2000's "mushroom head" can detect surrounding air space without any dead zone and with a longer detection distance, resulting in an overall performance superior to that of KJ-200 that is fitted with the "balance beam" radar, according to Wang Mingliang.
When talking about the future development of home-made AEW&C aircraft, Wang said that all equipment should be developed according to national demand.
In the future, China-made AEW&C aircraft will first and foremost cover all of China's territorial land and sea. It should also ensure that combat aircraft is able to implement diversified missions in surrounding areas and meet the demand for defense depth, which poses a higher demand on maritime detection capability of AEW&C aircraft.