An Open source satellite imagery spotted Chinese JY-27A anti-stealth Radar in Pakistan at the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) M.M. Alam Air Base.
According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, satellite imagery revealed a China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) JY-27A counter-very-low-observable (CVLO) radar at Mianwali Air Base (AB) in Pakistan. Imagery examination indicates the radar arrived between 5 June and 29 August and was not yet fully erected as of 2 September.
Revealed at the 2016 Zhuhai Air Show, CETC had advertised the JY-27A as VHF (very high frequency) radar, in which state it offers 2D electronic-scanning in azimuth and elevation.
Of its benefits, CETC promoted the JY-27A’s ability to detect low-observable (LO) or ‘stealth’ aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II, at long-range.
The JY-27A CVLO (counter-very-low-observable) radar’s range is not known, but Shephard Media (citing unverified news reports) pegged its capability at roughly 500 km. In addition, the JY-27A can also provide situational awareness of incoming ballistic missiles.
It is not known if this was a single-unit procurement, or if it is part of a larger batch. Given the long-range detection capabilities of the JY-27A, it would follow that Pakistan could procure a long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM). In this regard, Pakistan had reportedly expressed interest in three or four FD-2000 (i.e., the export variant of the HQ-9) long-range SAM systems from China.
The sale of the JY-27A to Pakistan has gone unnoticed in the open press, with most air-defense-related reporting concerned with Pakistan’s desire to import advanced Chinese surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems.
According to China’s Global Times newspaper, a senior Chinese radar designer said at a recent interview that China has developed a meter wave anti-stealth radar that can be used to spot enemy stealth aircraft and even guide Chinese missiles toward them.
Speaking to the newspaper, Wu Jiangqi, a senior defence scientist at China Electronics Technology Group, a state-owned electronics giant which creates of a variety of applications for civilian and military use, including radars, said that meter wave radar “can fulfill the requirement” of detecting enemy stealth systems with high precision “as long as they are designed to serve this purpose.”
The radar could be deployed on vehicles, on land and warships, the Global Times reported quoting the Chinese military officials.
“As long as they are designed to serve this purpose, meter wave anti-stealth radars can fulfill the requirement,” Wu Jianqi, a senior scientist at the state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) who conducts researches and designs anti-stealth radar, said when asked in an interview with the Naval & Merchant Ships magazine whether a meter wave radar can guide missiles to shoot down stealth aircraft.
Meter wave radars can detect stealth aircraft because modern stealth aircraft are mainly designed to avoid detection by microwave radar, and are less stealthy to meter wave radar, military experts noted.
According to quwa,
One interesting aspect of a potential Pakistani VHF radar purchase is that in the 2017-2018 release of the Pakistani Ministry of Defence Production’s (MoDP) report, the Pakistani armed forces’ Directorate General of Munitions Production (DGMP) signed-off on a VHR radar program.
However, a DGMP program would suggest that the radar would have been a local project (either through an original design or via a transfer-of-technology agreement). It is unclear where the JY-27A stands in that equation. Moreover, a single-unit purchase at this stage would make sense since Pakistan could be looking at evaluating it before committing to a larger order.
As for the utility of VHF radars in detecting LO aircraft at long-range, an issue of this nature actually came up in 2014 when the Russians inducted VHF radars of their own.
Though a VHF radar might provide some situational awareness of a LO aircraft, it is generally not equipped to guide a missile to that target, at least at a sufficient accuracy. Moreover, a strike package consisting of LO aircraft will rarely operate alone; in fact, they will operate in a network-enabled system comprising of electronic warfare (EW) systems, drones (e.g., loyal wingman drones), and other assets.
Thus, situational awareness – while essential – is not enough to pose a credible threat to LO intruders. For the JY-27A to result as a serious acquisition, Pakistan would need to follow-up with long-range SAMs (with sufficiently long-range target tracking and missile guidance radars). At the minimum, it will need to develop a procedure to pair the early warning potential of the JY-27A with its existing response mechanisms (e.g., scrambling its multi-role fighters and using airborne early warning and control to support the intercept mission).
In any case, it should be noted that M.M. Alam Air Base has become an area where the PAF seems to test Chinese equipment. In 2017, the same air base was host to a Wing Loong drone apparently undergoing tests.
It may simply be an AN/TPS-77 as well.