Carrier Navy: the Chinese choice of Shipborne AWACS

 Carrier Navy: the Chinese choice of Shipborne AWACS

In another column of this column, the road of Chinas Navys regional air defense behind the 10000 ton drive, I put forward this view: with the technical route of Chinas regional air defense ships shifting from the Soviet Russian model to the U.S. model, even if the two existing aircraft carriers of the Chinese Navy still have a large number of Russian genes, it can be concluded that China is making every effort to build an aircraft carrier and The American ocean going Navy with the core of carrier based aircraft wing is not the Soviet style ocean Navy with nuclear submarines as the core.

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

From the photos, the tail of air police 600 has four vertical wings, which looks very similar to the US E-2 eagle eye carrier borne early warning aircraft. It is likely to use yun-7 as the flight platform, but it is equipped with a turboprop-6c engine with a ship hook at the tail. Considering that all early warning aircraft in service in China use active phased array radar, the air police 600 should not be an exception, which means that its core indicators of target detection accuracy, response speed, multi-target detection capability, reliability and other core indicators are likely to surpass the E-2C which still uses pulse Doppler radar, and is comparable with the latest E-2D.

Another article published by Forbes magazine in early September speculated on the design and performance of the air police 600. According to this, the article disclosed that the outside world had seen the aircraft model on a large cement aircraft carrier model in Wuhan as early as March 2018, which is considered as a training facility for testing the deck layout. According to the author, the yun-7 platform used by air police 600 is based on the outdated Soviet made An-24 light transport aircraft, with a maximum take-off weight of about 28 tons and can accommodate four to six crew members. Due to the performance limitation of flight platform, air police 600 is likely to lag behind Hawkeye in the key index of dead time.

At present, reports on the specific performance of the air police 600 are still based on a variety of scattered information, but there is no doubt that the aircraft will be equipped with the next batch of aircraft carriers under construction in China. Because Chinese officials have already publicly confirmed their breakthrough achievements in the field of electromagnetic catapults, as well as plans to build new aircraft carriers. Therefore, the speculation that Chinas next batch of aircraft carriers will abandon the ski jump deck and be equipped with catapults is basically credible. The propeller powered AWACS need longer runways because of insufficient slippage acceleration during take-off. Under the condition of limited deck of aircraft carrier, catapults must be used to give AEW higher acceleration to reduce the glide distance. The catapults on Chinas new aircraft carrier will provide the air police 600 with appropriate takeoff conditions.

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.

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.)