2012-08-05 (Chinese Military news from China Defense Mashup) — Recently pics appeared on the Internet may be the Chinese new AWACS aircraft, which was developed from Y-7 transporter. But Y-7 is an old aircraft, and its size is also slightly larger, so that the aircraft may only be carrier-based fixed-wing AWACS technology demonstrator aircraft based on Y-7 aircraft.
In fact on earlier time, oversea medias China found a AEW aircraft modified from Y-7 in Flight Test Establishment (CFTE) in China by satellite images. Due to China’s Air Force, Naval Air Force has been equipped with KJ-2000 and KJ-200 AWACS, so some foreign analysers have speculated that the Chinese Navy is developing carrier-based fixed-wing AWACS. Because they do not know that this aircraft is a full-size model or real aircraft, so it did not cause too much attention. Recently some new pictures clearly display that it is a real aircraft, and it proves PLA Navy’s carrier-based fixed-wing AWACS project is orderly advance.
Although images number are few, but we still can get informations on PLA Navy carrier-based fixed-wing AWACS development. First, its engine change. It uses a six-blade propeller, the Chinese carrier-based fixed-wing AWACS domestic WJ-6C Turboprop engines. WJ-6C is developed by China’s Southern Power in accordance with the requirements of the tactical transport aircraft and special aircraft of the new century and to be used in a new generation of turboprop transport aircraft. Its power is more than 5000 horsepower. Y-7 transporter’s original WJ-5 is only 2,500 horsepower. This mainly caused Y-7′s poor performance in high temperature and high altitude.
If China produced AEW aircraft from Y-7, the radar antenna and radome must be installed. Y-7′s empty weight is 14 tons, although less than 17 tons of E-2C, but with radar and antenna, display and control units, communication systems and other equipment, its weight than the E-2C. In this case, Y-7 needs to increase the power of the engine to improve the aircraft’s takeoff and landing performance.
Improving engine power, increasing aircraft weight ratio is to increase the aircraft’s maximum takeoff weight, especially in high temperature conditions. when using WJ-5 engine, Y-7 maximum takeoff weight of only 21 tons, the aircraft empty weight is 14 tons, except of radar and other equipment, then the weight of the aircraft is likely to exceed the E-2C of 17 tons, so that Y-7 at this time the fuel load of less than 4 tons. By comparison, the E-2C maximum takeoff weight is 27 tons, the aircraft empty weight of 17 tons, then E-2C can carry 10 tons fuel, almost 2 times of Y-7.
According to the power of WJ-6C, it is roughly the same with the T56 turboprop engine in the E-2C, so that it means that PLA Navy carrier-based fixed-wing AWACS maximum takeoff weight is from 25 to 27 tons, then Y-7 is clearly not appropriate. So PLA Navy next carrier-based fixed-wing AEW aircraft must be smaller than Y-7 and have similar size to the E-2C.
Restriction on the carrier-based fixed-wing AWACS size is also related to the carrier’s lift. Y-7′s length is 24.7 meters, a wingspan of nearly 30 meters. The size of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier lifts about 26 * 16 meters, while the Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier lifts size 20 * 15 m. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier lift in order to barely transported wings folded Y-7. Therefore, the Chinese navy can only carry the development of carrier-based fixed-wing AWACS on fighter lift of Kuznetsov-class carrier. China’s future carrier-based fixed-wing AWACS length should be less than 20 meters, the folding of the wing is less than 15 m.