Several local plane spotters have photographed two aircraft in flight which will operate from China’s upcoming Type 003 aircraft carrier.
Plane spotters have photographed China’s twin engine stealth fighter, sometime known as J-35, as well as the KJ-600 airborne early warning & Control (AEW&C) plane.
Currently China has two Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) aircraft carriers in service. To operate in these carriers, aircraft need a high thrust to weight ratio along with limited payload during operations.
China is building a massive type 003 aircraft carrier near Shanghai, which is comparable to the US Navy’s Ford Class. The type 003 is likely to use a catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) design. Because of its three electro-magnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) catapults, the upcoming aircraft carrier will be able to launch the recently photographed aircraft in flight.
While the official designation of China’s new twin-engine stealth fighter aircraft is yet to be known, open source sources call it “J-35” or “J-XY; some even call it the FC-31 – a stealth fighter which was first spotted at a land-based testing facility at Wuhan.
According to H.I Sutton, “The airframe complies with the new norms of stealthy aircraft design. Carefully aligned angles, a mix of sharp chines and blended surfaces, and sawtooth edges to panels. Over the course of its development, since its first flight in 2013. Three prototypes have flown with the latest, in 2020, being considered closer to a production aircraft.
A internal weapons bay spans the lower fuselage a lot like the F-22. This can carry the PL-15 medium range air-air missile. Like the F-35, additional weapons can be carried in underwing hardpoints. These will increase the aircraft’s radar cross-section so they are not normally seen.”
Plane spotters have also photographed the KJ-600 in flight, which is remarkably similar to the U.S. Navy’s E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. It is interesting to note that many of the weapon systems coming out of China are almost photocopies of US military hardware.
While not much is known on the sensor suite installed on the KJ-600, according to Henri Kenhmann, a very reliable source on the Chinese military, “As for the type of radar selected for the platform, rumors mention an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar mounted on a rotating disk. This would favor the “width” of the radar (therefore the number of installed modules) the power and the range, to the detriment of the refresh rate had it been a three-sided fixed configuration (as is the case with the KJ-2000 and the KJ-500 land-based AWACS). A quick calculation shows that in “back-to-back” configuration, the “width” of each radar face is about 15% larger than in the configuration of three fixed faces, but all of this remains to be confirmed.”