Beijing’s ambitions for a large aircraft carrier have gained more clarity, with the emergence of detailed artist impressions of the Xian KJ-600 airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft, as well as satellite imagery of a Chinese shipyard.
Recent artists impressions posted on social media offer more details about the Xian KJ-600, which is expected to be a key part of future People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) carrier air wings.
While the provenance of the impressions are not clear, they are consistent with previous images of the aircraft, which resembles the Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye in service aboard US and French carriers.
The impressions suggest that the twin-turboprop KJ-600 will also have a carrier on-board delivery (COD) variant similar to the C-2 Greyhound, and an anti-submarine warfare variant.
The main AEW&C variant is notable in that it includes an air-to-air refueling probe. The text suggests that this can increase its endurance from 4-5hrs to 7-8hrs.
The KJ-600 is shown with the larger JZY-01 testbed, which has been used to test what is apparently the aircraft’s CETC KLC-7 radar. A CETC promotional video at Air Show China in November 2018 depicted KLC-7 equipped KJ-600 vectoring fighters against enemy aircraft.
Like the C-2, the KJ-600’s COD variant is equipped with a ramp for loading personnel and equipment. The ASW version features a surface search radar under the chin, torpedoes in a semi-recessed mounting in the aircraft’s belly, synthetic aperture radar, and a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) boom.
The aircraft are planned for use aboard China’s developmental Type 002 carrier. In April, the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) posted satellite images of Jiangnan shipyard, where it contends a large aircraft carrier is under construction.
Its estimated displacement will be 80,000-85,000t. By using catapults, as opposed to the ski-jump found on Beijing’s existing pair of carriers, it will be able to launch a broader range of aircraft, including AEW&C types. CSIS projects that it will enter service in 2022.