China has developed a new electronic warfare (EW) aircraft with additional antenna to gather intelligence near the South China Sea and East China Sea.
"The new aircraft could gather intelligence and electronic data in the South China Sea and East China Sea on whatever comes near," Wei Dongxu, a Chinese military analyst, told the Global Times on Thursday.
A photograph of the aircraft featured in a China Central Television (CCTV) report on Wednesday.
According to the report, the warplane is "a new type of special mission aircraft." There was no mention of the exact designated of the aircraft.
"The aircraft appears to have been developed from the Y-9," Dongxu said.
The Shaanxi Y-9 is a medium-sized tactical transport plane having a maximum range of about 4,000 kilometers. It has been modified to enable the aircraft to carry out different operations- as early warning aircraft, reconnaissance plane and as an anti-submarine aircraft, CCTV reported last year.
The latest modification to the plane involves adding a hemispheric radar dome under its chin, two large antennas on each side of the Y-9, an antenna on each side of the tailfin and a EW pod on top of the tailfin.
"These devices can monitor enemies' radio communication and intercept their radar signals," Dongxu added.
They can deliver electronic suppression, supporting China's aerial strike units by jamming and paralyzing hostile air defense systems, according to Dongxu.
The Chinese expert however, added, "Aggressive role is better left to EW aircraft modified from a faster fighter jet, than from a vulnerable transport plane."
The new aircraft could replace the old GX-4 EW plane, which is also developed from the Y-8.
An aircraft with similar traits was photographed years ago, but was grounded and painted yellow, which usually means it was in development. Military observers called it the GX-11, the report stated further.