China's new KJ-600 airborne early warning and control aircraft has been spotted at the CFTE at Xi'an-Yanliang Airbase. The aircraft, which reportedly made its maiden flight on August 29, looks remarkably like the American Hawkeye.
Much like the Hawkeye, the KJ-600 won't be a fighter — instead, it will act as an early warning and surveillance system that will help aircraft carriers know where to deploy its jets and when.
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The KJ-600 is likely to be a very familiar sight to aircraft enthusiasts. Low-res photos have emerged over the last few days — one at Xi'an-Yanliang Airbase and the other during the aircraft's reported maiden flight — showing the plane, which looks almost identical to the E-2 Hawkeye.
In my opinion one of the most important unveilings this year, the XAC KJ-600 carrierborne AEW prototype has been spotted at the CFTE at Xi'an-Yanliang.
See also report by @CSBiggers and Sean O'Connor at Jane's.
(Plus image via @卫星图像发烧员 from Weibo) pic.twitter.com/z3u6CyeeTH— @Rupprecht_A (@RupprechtDeino) August 28, 2020
The shape of the KJ-600, as well as the radome mounted atop the aircraft, would be easily mistaken for a Hawkeye who didn't know what they were really looking at.
The plane was developed by the Xi’an Aircraft Company, which also manufactured China's Y-20 heavy transport airplane.
Slowly the images are getting better - ok, not really better but at least that it looks real - of the XAC KJ-600 during its maiden flight yesterday.
As such it seems this CGI was pretty accurate.
(Image via IblinI/PDF) pic.twitter.com/qmNFiLXM8g— @Rupprecht_A (@RupprechtDeino) August 30, 2020
As Popular Mechanics reports, the KJ-600 won't fly from China's existing aircraft carriers, Liaoning and Shandong, as both of these use ski jumps to lift fighter jets into flight. Propellor planes like the E-2 Hawkeye and KJ-600 simply can't generate enough power to take off on such a short runway.
Instead, China’s new plane will operate from the in-construction new Type 003 carrier which will be the first Chinese aircraft carrier with a catapult system that can launch large propellor aircraft into the air.