Surveillance Aircraft II

ZDK-03/Y-8P Karakoram Eagle

ZDK-03 (Y-8P) is an AWACS aircraft developed for the Pakistani Air Force as part of the JF-17 supporting project initiated in the early 2000. A Y-8 AWACS testbed (S/N T0518/Y-8CE) based on Y-8 Category II Platform was first discovered at CFTE in early 2006. Unlike KJ-200, this variant carries a traditional rotodome on top of its fuselage, with a mechanically rotating antenna inside. The PESA radar is thought to scan electronically in elevation but mechanically in azimuth. Therefore the Y-8 AWACS was speculated to be developed for the export market only as it appears less advanced than KJ-200 which features a fixed AESA radar. However this design does provide a true 360° coverage and carry a cheaper price tag. The AEW radar is the product of the 38th Institute/CETC, but no details are available. The aircraft also features a solid nose with MAWS sensors on both sides, and small vertical stabilizers attached to its tailplanes. Another two MAWS sensors are mounted in the tailcone as well. Additional fairings are seen at the wingtips and the tail housing ESM antennas. The Y-8 AWACS prototype flew to Pakistan and was evaluated by Pakistani AF in 2006. After some negotiations a much improved design was developed based on PAF's specifications. The variant is now named ZDK-03/Y-8P (ZDK means CETC) and is based on the new Y-8 Category III Platform featuring WJ-6C turboprops with 6-blade high efficiency propellers. It was reported in early 2009 that a total of 4 were ordered by PAF in a $278m contract. The first ZDK-03 prototype rolled out in November 2010 at SAC. Since then it has been undergoing test at CFTE (S/N 733). The first ZDK-03 (S/N 11-001) was delivered to PAF in December 2011. The 2nd (S/N 12-002, formerly 11-002) was delivered some time later. The third (S/N 13-003, formerly 12-003) was delivered in 2013. The delivery of the 4th (S/N 14-004) was delayed until February 2015, probably due to certain upgrades such as a new datalink. ZDK-03 is serving as the airborne command & control center for the JF-17 fighter fleet currently in service with PAF. However it does not have the secure NATO datalink installed to effectively command western fighter aircraft such as American F-16. Therefore ZDK-03 operates together with Saab-2000 in a "high-low" combination in order to coordinate various Chinese and western made combat aircraft effectively. The latest rumor (June 2015) suggested that the AWACS might be upgraded in the future with a fixed AESA radar similar to the one onboard KJ-500.
- Last Updated 3/25/17

JC-8F Finback

A rare glimpse of JC-8F (JZ-8F/J-8FR) reconnaissance aircraft is shown here. Based on J-8F, this variant had been rumored for some time but was not confirmed until 2007. Unlike the earlier J-8R carrying an external camera pod, this dedicated recon aircraft features a conformal camera compartment replacing the original twin 23mm gun compartment underneath the cockpit. However it still retains the capability of carrying PL-8 & PL-12 AAMs. Its range can be further extended via in-flight refueling. The fairing protecting the cameras was seen having multiple windows of different sizes (ranging from 1 to 4), suggesting the camera compartment has a modular design which contains multiple cameras in different channels and angles. The optical camera may be based on KA-112A carried by J-8R and is expected to be more powerful and versatile. An IIR camera or synthetic aperture radar (SAR) may be installed so that the aircraft can fly missions at night or under poor weather conditions. Additional dorsal datalink antenna was installed in front of the vertical tailfin. Some were upgraded with VLOC antennas on the vertical tailfin. However it is unclear if the aircraft is capable of transmitting digital images at the real time. JC-8F was initially powered by two WP-14A turbojets with increased thrust. However they appear to have been replaced later by WP-13BII engines due to reliability problems. JC-8F has entered limited service with PLAAF and PLAN since 2006 (S/N 20x7x, 31x7x, 70x4x, 83x5x), replacing the old J-8R. The aircraft was still in limited production in late 2012. One image suggested that JC-8F can also carry various ELINT, SIGINT and SAR pods externally (e.g. KZ900).  
- Last Updated 6/24/17

Tu-154M/D Careless

A number of Tu-154Ms have been converted into ELINT aircraft as Tu-154M/D (Type I/II). Their mission is to search, detect, locate and analyze radio signals of its neighboring countries and regions, even through they were initially disguised under the cover of the civilian China United Airline registration. While Type I was believed to carry a BM/KZ800 ELINT system, Type II features a canoe shaped fairing under the fuselage which was speculated to house a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to provide high-resolution ground mapping images, a capability similar to American E-8 J-STARS. Besides the SAR radar, the aircraft still retains some of the EW and ELINT equipment, as indicated by the semi-spherical fairings and other small antennas under the rear fuselage. At least 4 Tu-154M/Ds (B-4015, B-4024, B-4029 & B-4138) were converted. Type I first entered the service with PLAAF in 1995. Type II passed the flight test in 1996. Subsequently all Type Is were converted to Type IIs.  The aircraft has been conducting several ELINT missions in East China Sea near Japan since 2013. Recent images indicated that additional Tu-154Ms have been converted (B-4016, B-4017, B-4027, B-4050, B-4028).
- Last Updated 5/6/17

KJ-500 High New 9

After the success of KJ-200, the next generation medium-sized AWACS (KJ-500/High New 9) has been developed at SAC since late 2000s. Based on the Y-9 platform and some hardware of KJ-200, the original "balance beam" radar antenna was replaced by a fixed rotodome containing three AESA antennas arranged in a triangular configuration, a design similar to that of KJ-2000 in order to provide a full 360° coverage. The radar is the product of the 38th Institute and utilizes the new digital array radar technology. As the result it is as capable as the AESA radar onboad KJ-2000 but lighter and smaller enough to be carried by the Y-9 platform. Thus the aircraft is cheaper to produce and operate compared to KJ-2000. Rotodomes of different shapes were evaluated onboard a Y-8CE radar testbed, and a circular dish shape was selected as the final configuration. A SATCOM antenna has been integrated to the top of the rotodome as well. It also has large nose and tail radomes which could house additional radar antennas to cover both forward and rear hemispheres. Similar to High New 8, it features two large rectangular bar shaped fairings housing ELINT antennas on both sides of the rear fuselage. Therefore the aircraft can fly the ELINT mission as well. MAWS sensors were installed aft the cabin door and ahead of the tail cone of KJ-500H. Like KJ-200, two additional ventral stabilizers were attached to the tail in order to further enhance the stability during the flight. Two KJ-500 prototypes (#737) were constructed by late 2013. The first batch of two KJ-500s entered the service with PLAAF at the end of 2014 (S/N 30471, 30472). A recent image (April 2015) suggested that PLAN has taken delivery of two KJ-500H AWACS (HJ-500? S/N 85091, 85092). Currently more KJ-500/HJ-500s are being built at SAC.
- Last Updated 1/30/17

Y-9XZ High New 10

It was first reported in October 2012 that a new psychological warfare variant (High New 10/Y-9XZ?) has been developed based on the Y-9 platform. The aircraft was rumored to have a new capability of hacking into enemy communication networks. Therefore it could be used to interrupt the internet traffic or spread false information and create chaos through social network within the enemy society by hacking into key web servers. Several Y-9XZ is believed to have entered the service with PLAAF in mid-2014 (S/N 30x1x?) and expected to replace the earlier Y-8XZ. Y-9XZ is similar to American EC-130J Commando Solo. A least one more was built by mid-2017.
- Last Updated 1/27/17

Y-9G High New 11

A picture taken in April 2014 indicated that a new ECM variant similar to Y-8G has been developed based on the Y-9 platform (Y-9G/High New 11?). It features a new chin radome plus three large oval and rectangular shaped antenna panels along each side of the fuselage as well as two plate antennas attached to the vertical tailfin. An array of blade antennas can be seen under the fuselage as well as a small semi-spherical antenna underneath the wingtip. This suggests a powerful, sophisticated and comprehensive electronic jamming system was installed to suppress enemy radar and communication, possibly using the phased array technology. Y-9G is expected to replace the earlier Y-8G. The latest satellite image (May 2017) suggested that at least one Y-9G has been built for PLAAF.
- Last Updated 6/3/17


It is believed that the 603 Institute/XAC have been developing the first generation of shipborne AWACS in a size and configuration very similar to American E-2C. The AWACS, dubbed KJ-600, is based on the experience gained from the earlier JZY-01 technology demonstrator. Due to its heavy weight and limited engine power, KJ-600 is designed to take off from the aircraft carrier using a catapult only. The AWACS is expected to be powered by two WJ-6C (5,100hp, to be followed by WJ-6E) turboprop engines with 6-blade high efficiency propellers, the same type of engine used onboard Y-9 medium transport. It is speculated to feature a single mechanically rotating phased array antenna inside the rotodome in order to provide a full 360° coverage. This configuration suggests the attempt to maximize the antenna size in a very constrained space inside the rotodome in order to achieve a longer detection range. The radar is believed to be the product of CETC. The AWACS appears slimmer and shorter than JZY-01. It might carry a 5-member crew (pilot, co-pilot, RO, CICO, ACO) similar to that of E-2C. A recent image (January 2017) indicated that a full-scale mock-up of KJ-600 was built to help design the indigenous Type 002 aircraft carrier to be equipped with catapults.
- Last Updated 6/17/17