The J-16D, the electronic warfare variant of China's J-16 fighter jet, will make its debut at the Airshow China next week. This indicates that the aircraft is in service with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and will give it an edge in electromagnetic space with powerful jamming capability, experts said on Wednesday.
A J-16D aircraft landed in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for its debut at the Airshow China, to be held from September 28 to October 3 in the city, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Wednesday.
The J-16D is China's domestically developed electronic warfare aircraft based on the J-16 fighter jet, Guangdong-based news website southcn.com reported.
One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the J-16D, compared to the original J-16, is the two large electronic warfare pods on the aircraft's wings, which will be used to disrupt and jam hostile electronic equipment, including radar and communications systems, analysts said, noting that it also canceled the original infrared search and track sensor in front of the cockpit since its main role is no longer air-to-air combat.
The J-16D is also equipped with a new avionics system and domestically made engines. It has undergone significant structural changes, including the use of a large amount of composite materials, Wang Ya'nan, chief editor of Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
In real combat situations, electronic warfare aircraft can accompany other warplanes and provide them with electronic warfare support, for example, conducting electronic jamming or deception, Wang said, noting that they can also launch direct attacks on hostile radar installations or early warning aircraft.
The US operates electronic warfare aircraft like the EA-18G.
China is aware of the importance of electronic warfare and the battle in electromagnetic space, that the one who wins in this field will gain an advantage on the battlefield by disabling the enemies' way to see, hear and communicate, analysts said.
To some extent, electronic warfare aircraft are more important than stealth aircraft, Wang said.
The CCTV report said the J-16D is painted with the insignia of the PLA.
Wang said this means the aircraft is in service.
Many other aircraft, including the Y-20 large transport aircraft, the JL-10 advanced trainer jet, the Y-9 tactical transport aircraft and the JH-7A fighter bomber, have also arrived in Zhuhai for the air show as of Wednesday, according to China Aviation News.
Source: Global Times