Chinese Air Force KJ-2000 AWACS just played a main role in the air parade in PRC’s 60th Anniversary day. China government also announces that it become the 4th country which can design and manufacture Airborne Warning and Control System behind U.S., Russia and Israel.
But before the October.1 2009, the development
history of Chinese KJ-2000 AWACS is still uncover from the classified
files. Fortunately, one Chinese state-run magazine newly published in
this month makes an interview with one Chinese leading electronic expert
to tell a story of KJ-2000.
Mr. Wang Xiaomo, the interviewee who has been engaging in the
research and design of radar and made great contributions to the
development of the Chinese military electronic industry. Here is the
brief content of the interview.
Reporter: China began the KJ-1 (Air Warning-1) Project at the end
of 1960s, why it was canceled. And when did China re-initiate the AWACS
Wang: The KJ-1 Project was terminated because China could not solve
the problem of Ground Clutter when airborne radar power-on. The failure
of KJ-1 project tells that China must make technological breakthrough in
“Ultra-Pure Spectrum Transmitter”, “High Performance Signal Processor”
and “ultra-low sidelobe antenna” before develop AWACS. In 1970s, China
has made great achievements in radar technologies and the boost of
computer also brings a reality of producing high-performance digital
Besides, several conflicts occurred since 1980s have display the
supreme position of early warning aircraft. Under the background of
international situation, China decided to develop or acquire AWACS since
Reporter: It must be an unusual and hard road.
Wang: Yes. Although preparations has been made for years, whether
China has the ability to develop early warning aircraft is still argued
in academic circle. In 1992, several Chinese Scientists and engineers
provide a report to government for explaining China’s ability and
determination in early warning aircraft development. The government at
that time also organized one oversea visiting delegation (I am one
member of it) to three countries: U.K., Russia and Israel.
The delegation later brought one sum-up:
purchase from other countries for realizing operational ability as soon
as possible. The delegation at that time believed that Israel early
warning aircraft had excellent performance but was immature for advanced
ARRAY radar technology. Meanwhile the Russia’s can not satisfy our
demands. The delegation wanted to purchase UK’s “Nimrod”, but this
project was canceled later.
Finally China determined to develop airborne early warning system by
domestic power and simultaneously import related technologies from
In 1992, China and Israel made a primitive agreement to co-develop an
airborne Early Warning system for PLA Air Force. After 4 years, both
sides signed a official contract, which defined a cooperative AWACS
design basing on IL-76 platform. Israel provided a modified Phalcon
system mounting antennas either on the aircraft fuselage and nose dome.
But we thought that this configure could only provide 260°coverage. Then
Chinese side provided another plan to install an expanded over-fuselage
stationary radar dome. This is the largest radar dome in the world. For
this, China built the largest Autoclave in Asia for producing composite
material radar dome.
(Blogger’s Note: I think that Israel’s plan is just a simplized
design of Phalcon system mounting for Boeing 707. Wang said that China
provided the new design. This is probably the A-50I. But the question is
why KJ-2000 looks so closed with Indian Air Force’s AWACS? Did China
and Israel share the design and the latter provide for India? What are
the real differences between KJ-2000 and Indian’s AWACS? )
Reporter: How about the later cooperation between China and Israel?
Wang: In 1999, the improvement of IL-76 has been finished in Russia
and the plane was transferred to Israel for electronic installation.
Under the pressure from United States, however, the contract was
canceled. Israel finally paid us the penalty for breach of contract. The
quit of Israel postpone the operational timeline of AEW&C aircrafts
but speeded up the domestic development.
Wang: 1. From Israel, China learned the T/R
module and composite material radar dome production process
specifications to control the quality.
2. Israel helped China to design radar structure basing on data bus network.
Reporter: When Israel canceled the project, did China have other choice?
Wang: Russia advised to jointly develop A-50 and even wanted to
“lend” 4 A-50s to PLA Air Force before the joint development. Actually,
Russian never believes China can produce indigenous AWE&C system.
When the “4.1″ mid-air collision between a United States Navy EP-3E
and a PLA Navy J-8II interceptor fighter jet, China felt it had been in a
hard international security situation. In normal condition, China would
own AWE&C system in 10 years. And the military department could not
wait for such a long time. So “AWE&C Made in China” did not acquire
But the top leader in Chinese government supports us. In 2002, the
land testing sample aircraft was finished. In 2003, the prototype
successfully finished its trial flight. In the last month of 2007,
KJ-2000 entered service in PLA Air Force.
We spent only 5 years to manufacture China’s own AEW&C system.
Report: Did we meet other difficulties during the R & D?
Wang: 1: Electromagnetic compatibility design; 2: Software
compatibility; 3: Battlefield Data Fusion via Datalink; 4: Scanning
performance in mountain area; 5: We have no choices but IL-76 platform
at that time. Russia don’t want sell China IL-76 after the birth of
KJ-2000. But China develops some special AEW&C system, such as
KJ-200, based on Y-8 aircraft.
Reporter: Please make an outlook of Chinese future AEW&C system
Wang: China has owned a complete and full family of AEW&C system.
In future, AEW&C system made by Chinese will be very competitive in
lower price. KJ-2000 costs billions of RMB and some new systems will
only spend thousands or even millions of RMB.
Being a large country, China in future will need
more AEW&C systems. We can develop lots of variants or upgraded
version from present systems.
Besides, our next object is Conformal Array Airborne Phased Radar,
however, which exceeds today data processing technologies. We believe
that China’s Radar technology is on the same level with foreign
countries. Who make breakthrough in new concept radar or other detection
methods, who will leading the world.
Mr. Wang Xiaomo, a radar expert, was born in 1938. He graduated from
Beijing Industry Institute (now named Beijing Institute of Technology,
BIT) in 1961. He is now the executive vice president of China Academy of
Electronics and Information Technology, as well as a tutor of Ph.D.
students at BIT and a member of China Engineering Academy.
In the past thirty years, Mr. Wang Xiaomo has been engaging in the
research and design of radar. He has made great contributions to the
development of the Chinese military electronic industry. He designed
many new types of radar by using the state of the art technologies. He
has high attainments in the aspect of Three-dimension Radar and
Low-attitude Radar, he is the founder of these types of radar in China.
The JY-8 and JY-9 radar, designed and developed under his leadership,
filled the gaps in the fields of radar technique in China. These radars
not only broke through the traditional mode of design, put forward the
development and manufacturing of radar into a new era, but also
shortened the distance to the advanced world technology.