Pakistan is buying a Chinese made AWACS (Air Warning And Control System)
aircraft, for $278 million. China has been developing its own AWACS for eight
years, ever since the U.S. forced Israel to back off selling China the Phalcon
AWACS (which used some American technology). China then bought some AWACS from
Russia, while hustling to develop their own.
Air Force was not happy with its four IL-76
AWACS (A-50s from Russia, converted to use Chinese KJ2000 radar systems) and
smaller systems carried in the Chinese made Y8 aircraft. Meanwhile, the Chinese
have been outfitting a Boeing 737-800 airliner as an AWACS aircraft. There may
be as many as three of the 737 AWACS. These work much better.
entered service last year. China has had to develop its own phased array radar
for it. The Y8 based KJ2000 carries a flight crew of five and a mission (AWACS)
crew of about a dozen. The aircraft can stay airborne for about seven hours per
sortie. The KJ2000 radar has a range of about 300 kilometers, and the computer
systems are supposed to be able to handle 5-10 fighters at a time, and keep
track of several dozen enemy targets.
The 54 ton propeller driven Y8 (which is based
on the Russian An-12) and 157 ton Il-76 jet are apparently considered less
reliable, and more expensive to maintain, than the twin engine, 79 ton, Boeing
737-800. Chinese airlines (some of them controlled by the Chinese Air Force)
have been using the 737-800 since 1999 (a year after this model entered service).
known which model AWACS the Chinese will deliver to Pakistan. The Chinese claim
that their phased array AWACS is similar to, and superior in some respects, to
the Phalcon radar they tried to buy from the Israelis. The Chinese were to pay
about the same price for each of the four Phalcon systems they sought to get
from Israel, that they are charging Pakistan.