A first example of the Chinese KJ-500 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft has been noted with an in-flight refuelling probe fitted.
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF) are steadily expanding their respective AEW&C fleets. It now seems that around five – and perhaps as many as eight – turboprop-powered KJ-500s are operational within each air arm and production is continuing apace.
Meanwhile, recent reports indicate the planned re-establishment of the 3rd Naval Air Division as an airborne early warning unit. This is in keeping with the serial 81033 noted on a KJ-500H (or KH-500).
The KJ-500 is the latest member of the ‘New High’ family identified in PLANAF service, and is also known as the Y-8W or Y-8GX-10. This type has been developed since the late 2000s as a next-generation medium-sized AEW&C platform.
In contrast to the KJ-200 ‘Balance Beam’, the KJ-500 features a traditional fixed rotodome containing three active electronically scanned arrays arranged in a triangular configuration similar to those of the KJ-2000 and allegedly developed by the 38th Institute. Two prototypes had been built by late 2013 and a first serial aircraft entered PLAAF service in late 2014. The PLANAF took delivery of its first two KJ-500Hs in April 2015. Andreas Rupprecht