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  • ​VIDEO: China intent on AESA radar upgrades

​VIDEO: China intent on AESA radar upgrades

Chinese Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars are in evidence at this year’s Airshow China, both for fighters and a potential carrier capable airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft.

At its stand, China Electronics Technology Group (CETC) displayed a model of its KLJ-7A AESA radar, which was developed by the Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET).

While the KLJ-7A, which appears aimed the Chengdu JF-17, first appeared in 2016, the company also displayed a new AESA set. Unlike the KLJ-7A, which requires a mechanical arm to move the array, the new set is fixed on slanted panel. It also features arrays looking to either side.

In March, Hu Mingchun told the China Daily that the KLJ-7A AESA will be installed on the JF-17.

"Our product will tremendously extend the fighter jet's detection range, giving it a much longer sight that will help it detect the enemy's aircraft before they do, and this is very important because in real combat if you see first, you fire first," says Hu.

AVIC, meanwhile, is promoting what it claims to be the world’s first air-cooled active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar for combat aircraft.

The system was developed by Leihua Electronic Technology Research Institute as an upgrade for existing second and third generation fighters. A company video shows that the type can be quickly installed on the Chengdu JF-17 Thunder.

Other applications could include legacy J-10s in service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

An AVIC official says the airflow for cooling the radar comes from the aircraft’s environmental control system. This apparently obviates the need for drag-inducing ducting around the aircraft’s nose.

The radar operates in the X band and weighs 145kg. It can detect a fighter-sized target at 170km. It can track 15 targets simultaneously and engage four at the same time. It also has a surface search function. AVIC claims that it has a “strong anti-jamming capability.”

An official with the JF-17 programme said that different AESA options for the JF-17 are being weighed, with no decisions as yet.

In addition, CETC displayed a small model of its KLC-7, a spinning AESA array apparently for use aboard a twin-engined airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft similar to the Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye.

A video in the CETC stand showed an aircraft equipped with the KLC-7 directing an engagement against a group of enemy fighters that resemble the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet.

A twin-engined AEW&C could eventually be developed for use aboard China’s planned fleet of aircraft carriers.

CETC also showed what it claims is a model of a prototype quantum radar. Such a radar relies on two streams of entangled photons. One beam is transmitted in the form of microwaves, the other remains in the system – the idler beam. The returned signal is converted back into photons, and a comparison made with the idler beam.

Such a radar would be revolutionary, as it would be able to see low observable aircraft, and be impervious to electromagnetic clutter.

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