Thursday, 26 May 2011

Images show China Developing New AEWAC Capability

Internet-sourced images suggest that China's People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF) has developed a fixed-wing airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, apparently based on the Xian Y-7 transport.

The latest indication comes from an image of a wind tunnel model of a small AEW&C platform, similar in configuration to the Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye but with the distinctive anhedral wing of the Y-7, itself a derivative of the Antonov An-26 family. Like the US E-2 Hawkeye, the Chinese AEW&C model employs a saucer-shaped radar and a similar configuration using four vertical stabilisers.(The Xian Y-7 is a Chinese copy of Antonov An-24; versions include Y-7, Y-7-100, Y-7-100J, Y-7G, Y-7H (was Y-14), Y-7-200A and Y-7-200B. Xian Aircraft builds the Y-7 transport plane, designed to operate on medium-and short-distance feeder lines, with a passenger cabin that accommodates 48-52 seats. All domestic Chinese airlines rely on the Yun-7 passenger planes produced by Xi'an Aircraft as the mainstay for intermediate and short flights, as well as branch routes.)

Recent internet imagery shows what appears to be a full-size model of this aircraft, while other images of an AEW&C type aircraft in flight are a potential indicator that flight testing may be under way.

While such an AEW&C aircraft would likely not be deployed on the ex-Ukrainian carrier Varyag , which is not expected to be outfitted with a catapult, follow-on carriers to be built in China are expected to be catapult equipped.