Yun-8 Rotodome Airborne Early Warning Aircraft
Following the introduction of the KJ-2000 AWACS and KJ-200 (Y-8 'Balance Beam’) AEW aircraft in 2001/02, a third Chinese AEW aircraft programme was revealed in 2005. Based on the Shaanxi Yun-8F400 airframe, the aircraft features a conventional rotodome mounted above the fuselage. Internet source photos showed that an example has been built, carrying serial number T0518. The exact status of the programme is unknown, but some sources suggested that the aircraft may have been aiming the export market.
Airborne electronic systems has been a focus of the PLA’s extensive military modernisation since the 1990s. In particular, AEW capability has been seen by the military as vital to obtain air superiority over the Taiwan Strait. The fact that the PLAAF is testing AEW/AWACS designs with different radar arrangements (rotodome, fixed dish radome phased array radar, and ‘balance beam’-style electronically scanned array radar) reflects its serious intention to develop a modernised AEW&C capability.
The Y-8F-400 was developed by Shaanxi in Aircraft Industry Corporation in 2001. The aircraft features a solid nose which replaced the Y-8’s original ‘glass-in’ nose design, and a three-man flight crew. All windows on the fuselage were removed. A pair of vertical stabilisers are fitted on the tips of the tail-plane to enhance directional stability.
Little is known about the performance of the radar system fitted on the new Y-8 AEW. It was estimated that the aircraft may be comparable to the U.S. E-2C Hawkeye in terms of performance and capabilities.
Last update: 3 September 2007