Images have emerged on Chinese military web forums suggesting sensor upgrades to Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-11A combat aircraft, with reports noting that two regiments have received these modifications so far.
Upgraded J-11As appear to have four new missile approach warning systems (MAWS), two just aft the cockpit facing forward and two pointing aft on the vertical stabilisers. Similar systems have previously been fitted to the H-6M and H-6K strategic bombers.
Chinese reports also indicate that cockpit displays have been upgraded and that an upgraded fire control system allows the fighter to use Russian Vympel R-77 or Chinese Luoyang PL-10 medium-range air-to-air missiles. Available imagery cannot confirm these upgrades.
There is little to indicate that the J-11A’s radar has also been upgraded. However, China’s development of new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar for the Chengdu J-10B and J-20 fighters indicates that radar upgrades are possible for older SAC J-11s.
A potential radar upgrade may also see the inclusion of new helmet mounted display (HMD) systems, mirroring a modification path undertaken by several Western fourth-generation fighters.
SAC’s J-11A fighters stem from its initial 1998 contract with Russia’s Sukhoi Aircraft Corporation to co-produce 200 Su-27SK fighters from kits made at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KnAAPO).
Initial co-produced units proved inadequate to the point of requiring Russian-assisted rebuilding, and Sukhoi officials later told IHS Jane’s that SAC’s production finish for J-11As exceeded that of Sukhoi’s Su-27s.
However, in a move that damaged Sino-Russian military technology relations, SAC built only 104 kit-based J-11As before hijacking the design to make nearly entirely Chinese-produced J-11B and twin-seat J-11BS fighters, J-15 and J-15BS naval fighters, and twin-seat J-16 strike fighters.
In April 2014 an Asian government source told IHS Jane’s that China had 230 J-11A/B fighters in 2014 and this was expected to increase to 390 by 2020, along with another 100 J-16 strike fighters.
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