India Almost Flew the E-2 Hawkeye Carrier-Based AEW&C in 2000, Now China's KJ-600 Soars

India Almost Flew the E-2 Hawkeye Carrier-Based AEW&C in 2000, Now China's KJ-600 Soars


The development of carrier-based airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platforms underscores the growing significance of these assets for modern naval forces.

China's KJ-600 program highlights this, but it's not the first time an Asian nation seriously considered this capability. The Indian Navy, years before the KJ-600, nearly made a deal that would have profoundly changed its carrier operations.

India's Hawkeye Exploration​

In the early 2000s, India eyed the Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye for its upcoming Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC), a planned 65,000-ton carrier. The goal was to acquire six E-2s for both the INS Vikramaditya and its new domestically built carrier.

The E-2 Hawkeye is well-regarded, offering significant command and control capabilities and long-range aerial surveillance.

However, the Indian Navy quickly ran into obstacles:
  • Carrier Compatibility: India's planned carriers lacked catapult launch systems (CATOBAR), vital for operating heavier aircraft like the E-2.
  • Performance Limitations: Reports suggested the Hawkeye struggled in specific lighting conditions, dramatically hampering its endurance.
By 2005, the Indian Navy walked away from the deal. Limitations coupled with possible emerging alternatives likely drove that decision.

China's Airborne Solution - The KJ-600​

Meanwhile, China forged ahead with its domestic AEW&C solution, the KJ-600. This high-wing, twin-propeller aircraft carries a large dorsal radome suggesting substantial radar power.

Built explicitly for the PLAN's Type 003 carriers (which do use CATOBAR launch systems), the KJ-600 promises significantly enhanced situational awareness for Chinese naval operations.

Its development speaks to the growing role AEW&C aircraft play in naval power projection, a role China clearly wants to maximize.

The Future of Asian Carrier-Based AEW&C​

While the Indian Navy ultimately took a different route (opting for smaller helicopter-based AEW systems), it's probable they'll explore fixed-wing carrier solutions in the future.

The benefits of an aircraft like the KJ-600 – extended range, powerful radar, and superior command and control functions – are undeniable.

Both China and India's interest in this area emphasizes the shift in regional maritime security. AEW&C platforms are becoming central to establishing dominance within an increasingly contested operational theater.
 
Potential alternative solutions? What, exactly, were these? The Ka-31? We know for a fact that the Ka-31 does not have sufficient range.

Short of someone deciding to stick a massive radome on top of a fighter or something, there are no potential alternative solutions other than the E-2.

Depending on when IAC-III comes to fruition, we will have to procure AWACS aircraft for the carrier. For that, unless we have some drone at the time that can be modified for the role, foreign sales will have to be the way.
We dont intend to field AWACS planes from carriers at all. I dont think even a plan exists on paper yet. Mainly because our priority is waters near our mainland and islands. We can field Netra aircraft from airstrips and we have helicopter based AWACS. I dont think navy feels the need for carrier borne AWACS planes. Once we have a CATOBAR carrier, then we can have that discussion
 
Does this mean Indian carrier groups don't have proper AEW&C solutions? Is Indian navy at a disadvantage? Can Boeing MQ 25 Stingray be modified for AEW&C purpose?
Why not Naval Tejas for now and later on TEDBF, we already use KA-31 and were planning to get some KA-35 for AEW&C solutions. Even MIG-29K's could be modified for AEW&C roles.
 
To use these, a functioning catapult system is required on carriers. Operational Chinese carriers dont have those. The latest chinese carrier fujian is rumored to have EMALS, but I doubt it is functional, i think it is still in testing. It is very very difficult technology to master.
Even steam Catupult is enough , it doesn't have to be EMALS.
 
Let them test and fix it if it doesn't work. See, they wouldn't put a system that didn't work at all on a carrier. The fact that they have shows that it should work.

Even the US had a lot of difficulty with EMALS, and I imagine China and India will face similar challenges. In China's case, they will also have to figure out how to use EMALS on constrained power, given the Type 003's conventional powerplant. We shall see.
Steam Catapult is tried and tested except it adds lot of weight and takes up more space compared to EMALS, but many Navies still use them.
 
Even steam Catupult is enough , it doesn't have to be EMALS.
Steam catapult is 50 year old tech. No country that wants catapults is focusing on it.

If a guy wants to buy car, he wont go look for a vintage, he would buy a modern car. Both can take him from place A to B.
 
Steam catapult is 50 year old tech. No country that wants catapults is focusing on it.

If a guy wants to buy car, he wont go look for a vintage, he would buy a modern car. Both can take him from place A to B.
EMALS is been tested, I don't think any Navy uses them in their Carriers yet, yes it is old tech and more bulky but it is tried and tested tech.
 
We dont intend to field AWACS planes from carriers at all. I dont think even a plan exists on paper yet. Mainly because our priority is waters near our mainland and islands. We can field Netra aircraft from airstrips and we have helicopter based AWACS. I dont think navy feels the need for carrier borne AWACS planes. Once we have a CATOBAR carrier, then we can have that discussion
Actually the requirement is there, which is being somewhat addressed by deck based KA-31 AEW helicopters. However, helicopter based AEW, is far from ideal solution and brings its own set of limitations. Given the fact that most helicopters operate in range of 18000 to 26000 ft maximum altitude, the swath that's covered under the radar is limited to just about 120-150 Km around the vessel. Furthermore it's rather limited endurance greatly limits the duration of operational patrol missions and thus the helicopters would have to return to carrier every few hours..U would then have to shittke between sending kne up while other lands and reduels and in between there is a void in persistent AEW coverage.
 
Actually the requirement is there, which is being somewhat addressed by deck based KA-31 AEW helicopters. However, helicopter based AEW, is far from ideal solution and brings its own set of limitations. Given the fact that most helicopters operate in range of 18000 to 26000 ft maximum altitude, the swath that's covered under the radar is limited to just about 120-150 Km around the vessel. Furthermore it's rather limited endurance greatly limits the duration of operational patrol missions and thus the helicopters would have to return to carrier every few hours..U would then have to shittke between sending kne up while other lands and reduels and in between there is a void in persistent AEW coverage.
Well, I have never heard navy officers say that India needs a carrier based AWACS plane. Our AWACS needs are met by helicopters and by shore based AWACS plane IMO.

Of course you can say that it would be great if we have carrier based AWACS plane. We can also say that it would be great if we have nuclear powered 100,000 ton AC or carrier capable 5th gen stealth jets. But those things are out of our "aukaat" right now.
 
EMALS is been tested, I don't think any Navy uses them in their Carriers yet, yes it is old tech and more bulky but it is tried and tested tech.
EMALS is in use in US Ford class carrier.

The thing is that steam catapult itself is only viable in 80 thousand ton carrier, minimum. So the question arises, why would a country that is capable of spending so much money to get a 80k ton carrier would again spend so much on developing a 50 year old tech. Steam catapult may be old, but it is still a very niche tech and expensive to develop.

So, if they have to spend money to develop a catapult system, they will obviously go for a modern system.

Compared to steam catapults, EMALS weighs less, occupies less space, requires less maintenance and manpower, can in theory be more reliable, recharges quicker, and uses less energy.
 
EMALS is in use in US Ford class carrier.

The thing is that steam catapult itself is only viable in 80 thousand ton carrier, minimum. So the question arises, why would a country that is capable of spending so much money to get a 80k ton carrier would again spend so much on developing a 50 year old tech. Steam catapult may be old, but it is still a very niche tech and expensive to develop.

So, if they have to spend money to develop a catapult system, they will obviously go for a modern system.

Compared to steam catapults, EMALS weighs less, occupies less space, requires less maintenance and manpower, can in theory be more reliable, recharges quicker, and uses less energy.
It is equipped in 1 Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier so far, there are plans to equip all of this class carriers in the future, but having a lot of reliability issues.

A June 2022 GAO report states "The Navy continues to struggle with the reliability of the electromagnetic aircraft launch system and advanced arresting gear needed to meet requirements to rapidly deploy aircraft." The report also indicates the Navy doesn't expect EMALS and AAG to reach reliability goals until the "2030's".
 
Why can't we fit catapults to the runways of the carriers like many carobar designs?
Sloped design of the forward deck is not conducive to how a catapult system operates. Usually a flat deck is best suited to work woth Catobar assist system

Furthermore, catobar system require major changes to power delivery system which can not be retrofit to an existing aircraft carrier.
 
Steam Catapult is tried and tested except it adds lot of weight and takes up more space compared to EMALS, but many Navies still use them.
No, most Navies don't use steam catapults nowadays. Steam catapults saw a kind of proliferation when a lot of nations purchased the Design 1942 Light Fleet Carriers in the 1950s and 1960s (including India purchasing the old INS Vikrant), but all those ships are gone now.

Pretty much the only nations operating steam catapults are America (on the Nimitz-class) and France (on the Charles de Gaulle).

That said, considering that the Type 003 has retained a steam turbine propulsion system, it might have made far more sense to go for steam catapults (which don't require too much power but do need a lot of steam which is a byproduct from your steam turbines) rather than a power guzzling EMALS system.
 
It is equipped in 1 Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier so far, there are plans to equip all of this class carriers in the future, but having a lot of reliability issues.

A June 2022 GAO report states "The Navy continues to struggle with the reliability of the electromagnetic aircraft launch system and advanced arresting gear needed to meet requirements to rapidly deploy aircraft." The report also indicates the Navy doesn't expect EMALS and AAG to reach reliability goals until the "2030's".
Yeah, I read about that. Well, these carriers have 50 years life spans, and most of them will be commisioned in 2030s. So reliability issues will be solved by then.
 
We dont intend to field AWACS planes from carriers at all. I dont think even a plan exists on paper yet. Mainly because our priority is waters near our mainland and islands. We can field Netra aircraft from airstrips and we have helicopter based AWACS. I dont think navy feels the need for carrier borne AWACS planes. Once we have a CATOBAR carrier, then we can have that discussion
I agree. It may not exactly be needed today, but it would be something to consider for IAC-III, especially considering the fact that if folks were to start thinking today, it would easily take 15+ years to have a detailed design and prototype ready.

As for the EV-22 and KV-22, well, if other Navies were also willing to fund their co-development, then it might be something to look into.
 
Probably deck based helicopter naval version with asw,awacs version.
The only viable-ish option at the time besides the E-2 was the Ka-31. It was also known at that time that the helicopter would have limited endurance, but the E-2 couldn't physically operate off a STOBAR carrier, so we went with the only option.
 
Well, I have never heard navy officers say that India needs a carrier based AWACS plane. Our AWACS needs are met by helicopters and by shore based AWACS plane IMO.

Of course you can say that it would be great if we have carrier based AWACS plane. We can also say that it would be great if we have nuclear powered 100,000 ton AC or carrier capable 5th gen stealth jets. But those things are out of our "aukaat" right now.
We can't use a carrier-based AWACS aircrafts today, since we don't have the ships to fly those off from. However, someone does need to start thinking about these if you want to have an aircraft ready by the time IAC-III is under construction rather than having to rush stuff after that ship is nearing service.
 
Japan does...
Japan is an interesting case study in US arms procurements, since they almost always procure everything the US does (unless they have a viable alternative) even at exorbitant prices.

Do consider the fact that the V-22, although better than Japan's other helicopters, was not too favourable looked upon due to high costs. In fact, some officerrs in the JGSDF have advocated selling back their 14 MV-22s to the US or exchanging them for other helicopters after they were grounded last year.
 
makes sense - we can manage with 2 carriers if we can get 2 nuclear carriers of at least 65000ton size say starting 2040 and 2nd one in 2045...France can be key to nuclear propulsion for both SSNs and Carriers...Don't know what the inside story is but given what France has and only countries like India can buy - they should be game...Scaling up the Franch = 2 × Areva K15 pressurised water reactors (PWR), 150 MWt each,[4][5] LEU < 20%, may be faster...the same reactors also power the Barracuda SSNs - K15 nuclear reactor, 150 MW (200,000 hp)...So let us see the Modi-Macron magic to get India nuclear carriers and SSNs.
Won't happen, Sir. We will have one CATOBAR carrier in the 2040s, and two more in the 2060s and 2070s. Unless the government agrees to a four-carrier Navy in the next 20 years or so (which isn't impossible, admittedly), 2 65,000 carriers in the 2040s or 2050s isn't happening.

Now, coming to the reactors themselves: The 190 MW reactor under development for the S5-class would not be sufficient. The Charles de Gaulle comes in at 42,500 tons, and even with two 150 MW reactors, she is considered underpowered.

For a 65,000 to 75,000 ton carrier, we would need atleast 350 to 400 MW, and more if we were to use EMALS. Ideally, we would be looking for 500 MW or thereabouts (going by the figures of the Nimitz-class and adjusting the size difference to the extra power requirement).
 

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