China’s J-11B fighter aircraft equipped with an Active Electronic Scanning Array (AESA) radar has entered series production.
The upgraded aircraft, possibly re-designated as J-11BG has entered batch production at the Shenyang aircraft plant of the Aviation Industries Corporation of China (AVIC). Flight tests of the upgraded aircraft were wrapped up on December 18, AVIC announced on its Sina Weibo account on Wednesday, Chinese media reported.
The appearance of a J-11B fighter jet with a white-painted radar dome featured in photos attached to AVIC's Weibo post, is indicative of the change in radar, speculated Weihutang, a China Central Television program on military affairs. Most of the previous J-11B fighter jets had their radar domes painted black, the report said.
It is not known what improvements this type of new J-11B variant has received, but analysts said that it could be equipped with an advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar to replace the previous pulse-Doppler radar.
However, one expert discounted the possibility of the J-11B having an AESA radar, "Some of the photos of the new J-11B variant show that the aircraft still has a pitot tube on the center front of its radar dome, and usually the pitot tube has compatibility issues with an AESA radar, so if the aircraft is indeed equipped with an AESA radar remains to be determined," Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, told the Global Times on Thursday.
Nevertheless, a new, white radar dome indicates that the J-11B fighter jet is very likely equipped with a new radar system, Fu said. "It could be a significantly improved pulse-Doppler radar or a passive electronically scanned array (PESA) radar. The possibility for an AESA radar should also not be fully ruled out."
China is upgrading most of its older generation aircraft with modern radar and avionics and upgrading the J-11B could well be a part of this plan. A Chinese research institute, Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology has developed the KLJ-7A AESA radar which may have found its way into the J-11B.