IDEX 2019

AEW goes unmanned [IDEX19D3]

19 February 2019

Employing UAVs for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and attack duties has become an everyday part of military operations, but now China is developing a UAV that can undertake the role of airborne early warning. Using a UAV for the role not only offers considerable operational cost savings, but can also release larger and more capable manned AEW platforms for more critical missions.

Being marketed outside China for the first time at IDEX, the JY-300 UAV is a product of the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC, Stand 11-A27), developed by its No. 38 Research Institute. CETC claims that the integrated sensor/airframe UAV is the first of its kind.

At first glance, the JY-300 – displayed at IDEX in model form – appears to be a conventional medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV. It is powered by a tail-mounted turboprop engine, has long slender wings with winglets, and V-shaped tail surfaces. However, the model has unusual yellow bands on either side of the forward fuselage and on the inner-wing leading edges. These markings denote the locations of distributed phased-array antennas for the AEW radar system. The conformal antenna configuration presents less drag than a more traditional podded radar payload, as well as offering the possibility of larger-area antennas.

Believed to be named the Tian Shao (Sky Sentinel), the JY-300 programme was first revealed at the radar show in Nanjing in June last year, and a large-scale model was shown at Airshow China at Zhuhai in November. According to Chinese internet sources, the prototype made its first flight from Pucheng Neifu airfield in Shaanxi province on 30 September 2018.

JY-300 is a 1,300kg UAV with a 400kg payload capability. A CETC spokesman told the IDEX Show Daily that it has a 12-hour endurance with payload. Operating altitude is believed to be 25,000ft and the vehicle is equipped with datalinks, including optional satcoms, for downlinking radar data to a ground station. The radar system that has been integrated into the airframe offers long-range detection against air and maritime targets, including low, slow, small targets such as helicopters, missiles and small vessels.

State-owned CETC is China’s largest supplier of radar systems, and has developed a wide range of modern electronically scanned array sensors. At IDEX, the company is also showcasing its JY-400 tethered aerostat radar system, as well as an export version of the KJ-500 AEW aircraft – also being openly marketed for the first time internationally. This system is based on the Shaanxi Y-9 airframe and houses a triangular antenna array mounted in a fixed saucer-shaped radome mounted on struts above the aircraft’s cabin.

The KJ-500 is in production for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. CETC had earlier supplied the ZDK-03 system to Pakistan, featuring a previous-generation radar in a rotating ‘rotodome’ fairing mounted on a Shaanxi Y-8 airframe.

(465 words)