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Chinese air force deploying recently unveiled J-16D in combat training

A screengrab from video footage released by CCTV on 6 November showing a J-16D bearing PLAAF insignia. The state broadcaster revealed that same day that the service had begun deploying this new EW-capable variant in combat training. (CCTV)

China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has begun using the new electronic warfare (EW)-capable variant of the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-16 fighter aircraft in combat training.

Footage released by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) on 6 November shows at least two J-16D examples taking off from an undisclosed location in China and conducting flight manoeuvres, with the media outlet noting that the aircraft, which were shown bearing PLAAF insignia, were deployed in “combat-oriented drills”.

The images confirm that the variant has formally entered PLAAF service, although it is unclear when they were taken. CCTV reported that that J-16D will be used to provide EW support for the other combat aircraft, including the service's J-20 fifth-generation multirole fighter.

The two-seat J-16D was unveiled to the public at the Airshow China 2021 defence exhibition held from 28 September to 3 October in Zhuhai. The first prototype of the variant, which is essentially meant to suppress an enemy's air defences, reportedly flew in December 2015, according to Janes All the World's Aircraft.

The aircraft presents noticeable differences from the baseline J-16, including two prominent electronic warfare pods (electronic support measures/electronic signals intelligence) on the wingtips, four large jamming pods under its wings and air inlets, and a shorter nose radome that likely houses a slightly smaller active electronically scanned-array (AESA) radar.

Regarding the EW pods, Janes

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