April 6, 2015: Less than two years after being spotted in the air for the first time the new Chinese KJ-500 AWACS (Air Warning And Control System) aircraft has entered service. The KJ-500 AWACS can track over 60 aircraft at ranges of up to 470 kilometers. The KJ-500 aircraft looks more like the American AWACS (with a round radar dome on top) but is smaller and carried by the Y-9 four engine turboprop aircraft (similar to the U.S. C-130). The KJ-200 designs used the smaller Y-8 aircraft and a long box-like radar array on top of the aircraft. The KJ-500 will supplement and eventually replace the current eleven KJ-200 (also called the KJ-2000) that has been in service since 2005. There are also four of the export model (ZDK-03) in Pakistan. Pakistan paid $300 million each for these KJ-200 variants.
China has been developing its own AWACS since the 1990s, ever since the U.S. forced Israel to back off selling China the Phalcon AWACS (because it used some American technology). China then bought some AWACS from Russia, while hustling to develop their own. The Chinese Air Force was not happy with its four IL-76 AWACS (A-50s from Russia, converted to use Chinese KJ-200 radar systems) and smaller systems carried in the Chinese made Y-8 aircraft. 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.
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