GEAR & TECH

China might have radar tech that can see the F-35

The United States is banking on the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning to provide an advantage in a major war with China or Russia. These high-performance planes use stealth technology to evade enemy radars.


A F-35C Lightning II assigned to the "Rough Raiders" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 sits on the flight deck prior to flight operations aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Juan Cubano)

The first operational stealth combat jet, the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, was a gamechanger. It was able to penetrate air defenses, giving the enemy no idea that they were overhead — until the bombs hit their targets. The F-117 was followed by the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit. Those planes gave China and Russia some real problems. Although they weren't entirely invisible, the detection range was so short that… well, let's just say that by the time you detected them, you had mere seconds to find cover before the bombs hit.

According to The National Interest, Communist China now claims they have a way to counter stealth aircraft: The KJ-600, a carrier-launched airborne radar plane that will be launched from the People's Liberation Army Navy's Type 002 and 003 classes of aircraft carriers. One of the biggest weaknesses of China's carrier aviation was the lack of a plane comparable to the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye.

The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye is the latest variant of the long-running E-2 Hawkeye series of aircraft, which employs long-range radar and electronic communications capabilities to oversee the battlespace and detect threats beyond the sensor range of other friendly units. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Farbo)

The KJ-600 aims to fill that gap in capacity. The Chinese Communists claim that this plane can detect stealth fighters like the F-22 and F-35 at a range of 200 miles through use of an Active Electronically-Scanned Array (AESA) radar, but this capability may be oversold. An expert, quoted in the South China Morning Post, admitted that the 200-mile range comes from "a certain angle."

Those three words may be the catch for Communist China. There is no guarantee that the F-35 will come in at "a certain angle" conducive to 200-mile detection. It is far more likely the KJ-600 won't detect the F-35 until the American fighter has fired a pair of AIM-120D Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles. Then, the Chinese Communists will find their navy's been blinded, and are now sitting ducks.

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