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More indications that Y-20 AEW&C variant is in pipeline for PLAAF

Further indications have emerged that an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) variant of the Xian Y-20 transport aircraft is in the pipeline for China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

Cui Jixian, the deputy designer of the KJ-500 AEW&C aircraft, which is built on the Shaanxi Y-9 airframe and is currently in service with both the PLAAF and the PLA Navy Air Force (PLANAF), was quoted by the Global Times newspaper as highlighting during a 5 July seminar the need for both large and small AEW&C platforms, while noting that future AEW&C aircraft will be part of an integrated, networked system.

Lu Jun, chief designer of the PLAAF's KJ-2000 AEW&C aircraft, which is based on the Russian Il-76 airframe, was quoting as commenting during the same event, which was organised by, that the network would integrate data from airborne, space, ground, maritime, and underwater platforms. He also noted that individual AEW&C aircraft would be more capable of dealing with stealth aircraft, small targets, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Satellite imagery of the Shaanxi Aircraft Industry Group Corporation's (SAIC's) production facility in Hanzhong has shown that a significant number of KJ-500 aircraft have been built since 2014 and although it is difficult to establish the number of these aircraft in service from open sources, it is quite likely to be about 50.

The PLAAF and PLANAF also operate a number of KJ-200 AEW&C platforms, also based on the Y-8/9 airframe, carrying a linear antenna similar to Saab's Erieye system. A smaller, twin-turboprop AEW&C aircraft (KJ-600) for carrier operations is also undergoing flight testing.

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