Carrier Navy: the Chinese choice of Shipborne AWACS

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 Carrier Navy: the Chinese choice of Shipborne AWACS


In this context, similar to the situation of the area air defense ship, as an important operational capability element of an American ocean Navy, the shipborne fixed wing early warning aircraft has also become the inevitable choice of the Chinese navy. Obviously, no matter how advanced shipborne early warning helicopters are, they may be able to meet the operational needs of the British, Japanese, Indian or Russian navies, but they are very difficult to find their own position in an American ocean going Navy. This is not only related to the limitations of the structure of the flight platform itself, but also directly affected by the different blueprints of naval construction and application in various countries. This will also be discussed below The problem is further discussed.

In other words, the appearance of air police 600 is only a matter of time in logic. Its appearance further confirms a series of reasonable conjectures about the design style of Chinas next batch of aircraft carriers and even the whole navys army building direction. At present and in the foreseeable future, it is obvious that Chinas aircraft carrier formation needs this type of aircraft to make up for the short board of equipment structure as a so-called American ocean navy. However, for the future sea battlefield which may face revolutionary changes, the prospect of Shipborne early warning aircraft is another issue worthy of discussion.

The model of aircraft carrier and carrier borne early warning aircraft previously displayed in the Chinese Military Revolution Museum.

Air police 600

It should be pointed out that up to now, the Chinese military has never publicly confirmed the existence of air police 600, and its model name is also guessed by the outside world according to the past naming habits. On August 27, British Janes Defense Weekly first reported the so-called first flight of the aircraft, mainly based on satellite photos from Yanliang flight test base. The photo shows that the air police 600 used a rare blue coating, which is quite different from the yellow coating commonly used by Chinese verification machines. Analysis shows that this type of machine uses a large number of composite materials in order to reduce weight, this part is blue coating, and a small part of yellow coating is metal skin. The warning wing in the picture has a large span and should have very good short take-off and landing capabilities.

In terms of radar system, the article points out that the radar of air police 600 may not use three or more fixed arrays like other early warning aircraft in China. Satellite photos show that the radome has an intermediate leading edge section, which proves that it is equipped with only one radar array. Theoretically, the radar must rotate 360 degrees to cover omni-directional airspace. It is worth noting that although the US E-2D is equipped with state-of-the-art active phased array radar, it does not use three arrays. This means that the antenna still needs to be mechanically rotated, and there is a time interval for the refresh of detection data. However, Chinas air police 2000 AWACS equipped with three active phased array radars can achieve real-time data refresh in the whole airspace. China has shown a single side array airborne active phased array early warning radar called Silk Road eye at the Zhuhai Air Show, which is likely to be the predecessor of air police 600 radar. The author thinks that the reason why China has not chosen the mature three-dimensional array technology may be that the power system of yun-7 platform can not provide sufficient power for this radar. In addition, the conformal antenna and smart skin patch that China has tested on the air police 200 may also be used in the air police 600 in the future.

Can you ski jump off?

From the perspective of the development history of Shipborne AWACS, all carriers without catapults can only be equipped with early warning helicopters, even if they have installed ski jump deck, which improves the takeoff conditions to a certain extent. Does this mean that the two ski jump deck aircraft carriers already in service in China are absolutely unable to be equipped with air police 600? It should be said that it is certainly very difficult, but if the word absolute is added, Im afraid there will be a question mark.

First of all, it is not unprecedented in history to equip the ski jump deck carrier with fixed wing AWACS. The an-71 carrier borne early warning aircraft developed by the Soviet Navy in the late 1970s uses two high-power turbofan engines and one turbojet engine specially designed for takeoff boosting. The most obvious shape feature of the aircraft is that the warning radar is installed on the top of the vertical tail. Under the support of strong jet power, an-71 can take off directly from the near point of Kuznetsov aircraft carrier through the ski jump deck. The main problem of this aircraft is that its body is too high due to the installation position of radar, so it is difficult to store it into the aircraft carrier hangar. With the construction of a new generation carrier equipped with steam catapults, the construction of an-71 failed in the competition with the yak-44 turboprop carrier borne early warning aircraft, which was more like eagle eye. After manufacturing three prototypes, it disappeared with the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

The active carrier based early warning aircraft usually takes off by ejection.

Because of its mission characteristics, the AWACS require a long time to stay in the air, but there is no strict requirement for the flight speed. Due to the limitation of carrier space, carrier borne fixed wing early warning aircraft can not use large platform like land-based early warning aircraft, and its fuel carrying capacity is naturally difficult to match. Therefore, as long as the takeoff conditions are met, the most suitable power scheme for this type of aircraft is the turboprop engine which saves fuel. It is no accident that E-2, jacques-44 and air police 600 all use turboprop engines. For them, perhaps the threshold for takeoff conditions of ski jump deck is too high, while an-71 has made other sacrifices to meet the takeoff conditions.

Satellite photos show that the air police 600 is a turboprop early warning aircraft, but even if it is very difficult and the threshold is too high, it can not easily give an absolute conclusion. In 2005, the U.S. Navy Engineering Test Center conducted a test. Under 25 deck winds and 24.9 tons of takeoff weight, an E-2C can take off through a 165 meter runway on a 12 degree ski jump deck. The takeoff trajectory maintains a climbing rate of 2.5 m / s, which meets the U.S. Navys safety takeoff standard. The test also shows that the Hawkeye has reached the speed of disembarkation before it enters the upwarping section of the deck, and there is no obvious burden on aircraft control. This shows that even if the take-off weight of the AWACS is a little higher, or the running distance is shorter, it can still take off safely under the blessing of the ski jump deck.

In contrast, the runway length of the Liaoning and Shandong warships is about 200 meters (roughly measured according to the satellite map), and the maximum speed of these two carriers is about 30 knots (refer to the data of Kuznetsov), full speed upwind driving can provide sufficient strength of deck wind, and air police 600 should not be a problem theoretically. However, after all, the theory is only a theory, and there are still two problems to be considered in practical use: one is whether the power system of air police 600 can guarantee the take-off and running speed close to Hawkeye; the other is that the remote take-off will greatly occupy the space of aircraft carrier deck, thus significantly reducing the use efficiency of aircraft carrier deck. (to be continued)

(Wang Hongliang, a special associate researcher of the national strategic research center of Shanghai Jiaotong University, has set up a personal column for the surging defense, striving to improve the foresight and sharpness while taking into account the depth and thickness of the analysis.)

(function(){( window.slotbydup=window .slotbydup||[]).push({id:u5811557,container:ssp_ 5811557, async:true }Source of this article: surging news editor: Yao Wenguang_ NN1682