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Future AWACS to be unmanned, integrated: designer

(Global Times)

Updated: 2021-10-02


[Photo courtesy China Military]

The future airborne early warning aircraft and control system (AWACS) will be unmanned and integrated for future warfare, a major developer told the Global Times on Thursday at the Airshow China held in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province. 

Zhang Shaofeng, deputy manager of Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation, told the Global Times that the AWACS will be a vital element for future warfare, which will require integrated clusters of various types of aircraft. 

This will require AWACS to be unmanned and more intelligent, according to Zhang. 

As to when China can promote new airborne early warning aircraft technology, Zhou Guoqiang, an AVIC spokesperson, said that as every country will make great efforts to improve its early warning aircraft, so will China. 

"We would put forward [new technologies or products] whenever the country needs them," Zhou said. 

KJ-500 AWACS, developed by AVIC, is on display at the airshow in Zhuhai. According to Zhou, the system is currently being used by the People's Liberation Army. 

When talking about the capabilities of China's AWACS, Lu Jun, chief designer of AVIC's KJ-2000 early warning aircraft, said at a seminar in July that the KJ-2000, China's first operational AWACS, is one full generation ahead of the US' E-3C AWACS and E-2C Hawkeye thanks to its phased array radar technology, citing a commentary by the US-based Jamestown Foundation in 2010.

The KJ-500 is one more generation ahead of the KJ-2000, meaning that China's AWACS is now leading the US by two generations, Lu said.

Cui Jixian, executive deputy designer of China's KJ-500 early warning aircraft and chief designer of the country's next-generation AWACS, said at the same July seminar that future AWACS would definitely become an information network system that includes not just one single aircraft, but a cluster of platforms that can either operate together or alone.

These platforms would play their specially designed roles based on the demands of combat missions, with the final goal being winning the war, Cui said, noting that both large and small AWACS platforms are future trends.


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