▲A fighter jet attached to an aviation brigade of the air force under the PLA Eastern Theater Command safely returns from a training sortie despite of poor weather in early September, 2020.Photo:China Military
An improved variant of China’s J-11B aircraft has reportedly entered batch production, and experts said on Thursday that this type of heavy fighter jet has possibly received upgrades on its radar system that can increase its situational awareness and combat range.
The Shenyang Aircraft Co Ltd under the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) finally wrapped up all test flight missions for aircraft in scientific research batch production for this year on December 18, AVIC announced on its Sina Weibo account on Wednesday.
A J-11B fighter jet with a white-colored radar dome is featured in photos attached to AVIC’s Weibo post, reported Weihutang, a China Central Television program on military affairs.
Most of the previous J-11B fighter jets use radar domes in black, the report noted.
While some J-11Bs that use white radar domes were spotted in recent reports on the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force, it was not immediately clear if they were only temporary paint or a part of a technical demonstration, Weihutang said, noting that since AVIC said this time the aircraft belongs to a scientific research production batch, it means the upgraded J-11B with the white radar dome is confirmed to have entered batch production.
It is not known what improvements this type of new J-11B variant has received, but analysts said that it could be equipped with an advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar to replace the previous pulse-Doppler radar, reports said.
“Some of the photos of the new J-11B variant show that the aircraft still has a pitot tube on the center front of its radar dome, and usually the pitot tube has compatibility issues with an AESA radar, so if the aircraft is indeed equipped with an AESA radar remains to be determined,” Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, told the Global Times on Thursday.
Nevertheless, a new, white radar dome indicates that the J-11B fighter jet is very likely equipped with a new radar system, Fu said. “It could be a significantly improved pulse-Doppler radar or a passive electronically scanned array (PESA) radar. The possibility for an AESA radar should also not be fully ruled out.”
An upgraded radar system can potentially boost the aircraft’s situational awareness on the battlefield by detecting targets further away, track more targets simultaneously and enable the use of missiles from longer ranges, military observers said.
The PLA Air Force operates a large number of J-11Bs, and if the existing ones can also be upgraded, it will significantly boost the Air Force’s overall combat capability, analysts said.