China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) appears to be making progress on its new KJ-600 airborne early warning (AEW).
Photos of the aircraft sitting on the deck of a warship replica have been shared online, which indicates that it is going through trials. Analysts believe that the KJ-600 will be a highly disruptive aircraft once it’s mass-produced. The KJ-600 will work with the PLA’s catapult-equipped flattops that are likely to be implemented on future Chinese aircraft carriers, Asia Times reported.
Since the KJ-600 is an airborne early warning (AEW), it’s incompatible with China’a first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. Most of the issues are due to the aircraft being too heavy and not having the ability to operate on upward-curved ramps.
Currently, an airborne early-warning version of the Z-18 medium transport helicopter and an integrated radar system for airborne reconnaissance as a stopgap measure are used with the Liaoning aircraft carrier.
The fixed-wing KJ-600 will be comparable to the U.S. Navy’s E-2 Hawkeye, experts believe.
The Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation, which is part of the state-owned industry giant Aviation Industry Corp of China, is responsible for building the KJ-600. One of the advantages of the aircraft is that it can fly higher than most helicopters, which means that it can see further.
Latest photos hint that the #PLA's first KJ-600 may make its maiden flight soon. https://t.co/DG58x2tGNv
— Asia Times (@asiatimesonline) August 2, 2018
The People’s Republic has been heavily investing in its military as it attempts to emerge as a major global power.
One of the initiatives that have been pushed by Chinese President Xi Jinping is to expand the country’s fleet of aircraft carriers. The Liaoning, which was commissioned in 2012, was Beijing’s first aircraft carrier and currently has an active status. A second unnamed aircraft carrier is currently going through sea trials and is estimated to be commissioned in 2019. A third aircraft carrier is currently under construction and several others are still in the planning stages.
China opened its first overseas naval base in the African country of Djibouti in 2017 and has since been making additions and improvements to the complex, according to a report by Business Insider.
Beijing’s military expansion is increasingly catching the attention of U.S. government officials, with FBI Director Christopher Wray recently describing China as “the broadest, most challenging, most significant threat we face as a country.”
Wray also mentioned that China has been facilitating espionage missions that have targeted entities in all 50 states, Business Insider reported.
“We have economic-espionage investigations in every state, all 50 states, that trace back to China. It covers everything from corn seeds in Iowa to wind turbines in Massachusetts and everything in between. So the volume of it, the pervasiveness of it, the significance of it, is something I think this country cannot underestimate,” Wray said.