State-owned broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) has shown images of an electronic countermeasures (ECM) variant of the Shaanxi Y-9 four-engined, turboprop aircraft painted in the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) colour scheme: an indication that this version is now in service.
The new variant features distinctive blisters forward and aft of the wing on both port and starboard sides of the fuselage, which are assessed to house the antennas for the jamming suite. Other elements of the suite are likely to be housed in the pod on top of the tailplane, flat panel antennas either side of the tailplane, the chin radome, and in the rear fuselage section.
Images showing a developmental version of this aircraft, painted in yellow primer, first appeared in 2014.
The Shaanxi Y-8/Y-9 airframe has been used for a range of special mission aircraft referred to as Gao Xin (GX). Although there is no official confirmation, it is believed this variant is the Y-9G/GX-11.
The Y-8's airframe, which is based on that of the Russian-made Antonov An-12 'Cub', has been produced by the Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation since 1972. Further development led to the Y-9, which first flew around 2010.
The Y-9 upgrade included a digital avionics suite, more powerful WJ-6C engines, and six-bladed composite propellers. Cruising speed is assessed at about 300 kt (556 km/h) and endurance around 10.5 hours.
The new Y-9 variant shown by CCTV in early March is potentially a replacement for the Y-8G/GX-4 ECM variant that first flew around 2004. Up to eight Y-8G/GX-4s are believed to be in service with the PLAAF, although one is thought to have crashed in 2018.
The Shaanxi plant near Hanzhong, where the Y-9 is built, has been expanded significantly since 2010 and is assessed to be capable of producing up to 16 aircraft annually.
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