China has been developing for some time the aircraft of the air group on board its first Type 003 aircraft carrier of the CATOBAR type, the Fujianreleased on June 17, 2022.
The air group of Fujian will initially include J-15B and J-15D fighter jets, J-35 stealth fighter jets, KJ-600 airborne early warning aircraft and Z-20 anti-submarine and general purpose helicopters.
The J-15 Flying Shark fighter (Chinese version of the Russian Sukhoi Su-33) that operates on the first two Chinese aircraft carriers STOBAR has been perfected and the new version J-15B (or J-15T) is in the final tests.
The J-15B is equipped with a new AESA radar, in addition to the new front landing gear with the rod for coupling to the catapult car.
A version of the J-15 specialized in electronic warfare, designated the J-15D, is also being developed. The employment of the J-15D will be equivalent to the electronic warfare version of the Super Hornet, the US Navy’s EA-18G Growler.
In addition to the J-15B, the Type 003 will be equipped with the new stealth fighter J-35 (naval version of the J-13/FC-31), which first flew in October 2021.
The J-35 is based on the FC-31/J-31a fifth-generation fighter that first appeared in scale model form in 2011 and a demonstration aircraft flew in October 2012.
The original Russian-supplied RD-93 engines were exchanged for a pair of native WS-13E turbofan engines. The second specimen made its first flight in December 2016.
Although not confirmed, it was said that the embedded version may have received Chinese WS-19 turbofan engines and allow a maximum take-off weight of around 30 tons, putting it in a weight category similar to the F/A-18E/F Super. US Navy Hornet.
The aircraft also has the front landing gear adapted for the electromagnetic catapult launch of the Type 003 aircraft carrier.
Airplane KJ-600 AEW
The KJ-600 twin-engine folding-wing aircraft manufactured by XIAC first flew on 8/29/20. Its development was announced by China in 2017.
The plane resembles Northrop Grumman’s E-2 Hawkeye, which has been operating since the 1960s. The KJ-600 is equipped with an advanced Active Electronic Scanned Array (AESA) radar.
It weighs 25-30 tons and is powered by two FWJ-6C turboprops. It will have a range of 2,800 km, a speed of 550 km/h, and will be able to detect air targets beyond 480 km, tracking up to 250 air targets simultaneously.
The KJ-600 is reported to have a crew of 5-6, including the commander and co-pilot, with the rest operating the combat control systems and radar.
The KJ-600 will be able to guide multiple groups of aircraft in interception and aerial combat and consolidate data from multiple platforms to aid the deployment of long-range missiles.
The onboard fixed-wing airborne early warning aircraft will be needed by the air wing of future Chinese aircraft carriers to independently carry out high-intensity air operations in distant seas.
Currently, air alert helicopters used by aircraft carriers Liaoning and Shandong have short range, low flight altitude and short detection range.
The medium-sized Z-20 helicopter is developed by Harbin Aircraft Industry Group, a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corp of China. Its first flight was in 2013, and the helicopter is already operational in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China (PLAF).
Like its American analogue S-70, the Z-20 has a maximum take-off weight in the range of 10 tons and can be used for anti-submarine, anti-ship, search and rescue and transport missions.