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Chinese KJ-600 first carrier-based early warning aircraft makes maiden flight


China's first aircraft carrier-based, fixed-wing early warning aircraft, reportedly called the KJ-600, successfully made its maiden flight in late August. Chinese aircraft carriers currently have only helicopters for early warning purposes.

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Chinese KJ 600 first carrier based early warning aircraft makes maiden flight

KJ-600 airborne early warning aircraft (Picture source: k.sina.cn)


An aircraft identified as the KJ-600 was recently spotted in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, in a commercial satellite image, Ordnance Industry Science Technology, a Xi'an-based magazine on the national defense industry, reported on Monday, citing a report on Forbes on Saturday, Aug. 29. Liu Xuanzun comments on Global Times. Unverified photos posted on social media show it recently made its first test flight, the Chinese magazine said.

As a reminder, the Xian KJ-600 is a twin-engine, high-wing cargo aircraft and airborne early warning and control aircraft to be deployed on Type 003 aircraft carriers of the People's Liberation Army Navy of China from around 2022. The aircraft has a striking resemblance to the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye. However, the aircraft’s performance as a deck-based plane is questionable, as U.S. carriers use CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) configuration which allows for its launch- also having a longer runway. So, there is no evidence yet if the KJ-600 can operate on China's current two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and the Shandong, which use ski-jump flight decks without catapults. China's third aircraft carrier is expected to use a flat flight deck with electromagnetic catapults, which will be compatible with the KJ-600, analysts said.

The KJ-600 likely uses two WJ-6C turboprop engines, but could switch to the newer WJ-10s in the future. Ordnance Industry Science Technology said that the KJ-600 has a very tight fuselage design, making it almost as long as the J-15 aircraft carrier-based fighter jet, and the Z-18 early warning helicopter. The aircraft carries a radar on the top of its middle fuselage, similar to China's previous early warning aircraft KJ-2000 and KJ-500. It’s not know so far whether this radar rotates or not.

China's aircraft carriers currently rely on early warning helicopters to do the job, but they can only carry smaller radars, have limited speed, and only cover a radius of about 200 kilometers, while a fixed-wing early warning aircraft can cover about 400 to 500 kilometers, Wang said.


Chinese KJ 600 first carrier based early warning aircraft makes maiden flight 2

KJ-600 airborne early warning aircraft (Picture source: via Asian Times)