Paul Lewis/BEIJING

GEC-Marconi is stepping up efforts to obtain an Ilyushin Il-76 transport from Russia to modify as an airborne-early-warning (AEW) aircraft for China in the face of Israel Aircraft Industries' (IAI's) recent success in acquiring a similar platform for its rival Phalcon radar.

It is understood that GEC-Marconi has met Russian and Chinese ofÌcials recently to try to resolve the issue. In exchange for supplying proprietary design information to the UK company, to enable it to make the necessary structural modiÌcations, the Russians are asking for a share of the programme.

GEC-Marconi is proposing its mechanically steered Argus 2000 AEW radar system to the Chinese air force, mounted on an Il-76. British Aerospace is understood to be drawing on earlier experience with its now-defunct Nimrod AEW programme, to help modify the nose and tail structure for mounting the bi-polar radar assembly.

Chinese officials continue to show strong interest in the Argus system, despite growing air force attention now being paid to the electronically steered phased-array Phalcon system. IAI is known to have recently demonstrated the system to the air force, using Chile's Phalcon-equipped Boeing 707.

Air force decision-makers appear to be wavering between pursuing an advanced-technology solution to their AEW needs, in the form of the Phalcon, or opting for the older, conventional, Argus system. Defence officials suggest that China might opt in the end for a fly-off type of competition between the two.

IAI has already obtained an Il-76 airframe to modify as a Phalcon platform. Rather than opt for a 707-type side-panel configuration, IAI is thought to have chosen a dorsal-mounted array, similar to that being proposed to Australia. The system consists of a three-sided array providing 360 degree of coverage, housed in a fixed- rotodome-type assembly.

Source: Flight International