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.
 
Its s joke to say Indian Navy had a plan for eye in the sky. At most it can be called a fantasy !! A plan is when you have a map to achieve something. When you run into problem, you overcome it or come up with equally good options. In this case, it was neither. If Indian navy was serious, it would have acquired it and based it out of so many islands we have or even on the southern tip of India. At least we would have gained a lot of experience by now.
Now we not have any experience, plus there in plan to catch up with adversaries having this capability. The big difference between China and India is that the Chinese are tenacious about strategic matters and get capabilities by hook or crook, whereas India keeps talking big and either does not deliver or delivers below par. We have developed a reputation for this.
No, it was a reasonably serious consideration. The US even conducted a bunch of demonstrations in the US for Indian officers. The Navy planned to acquire 6 E-2s, of which 2-3 would be deployed on a future CATOBAR carrier, with the rest being deployed to shore bases. That idea just died a death in the late 2000s after the IAF ordered the A-50s and said that A-50s would be available for naval use if needed. Of course, the second order for two A-50s got delayed later on, and the Navy hasn't had that sustained capability for some time now.
 
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.
It isn't as easy as it sounds. The radar equipment needed for an AWACS aircraft is quite large and fairly heavy. Fitting that into a fighter isn't feasible beyond a point, and would impact the fighter's range and other capabilities quite adversely.
 
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.
I don't think any other Navies have Carriers with Catpults except US, France and China, Brazil recently decommissioned SaoPalo, most navies are converting to Flat deck helicopter ships. India, Russia and China have Skijump, Japan is converting one of their helicopter carrier to Skijump.
 
Why can't we fit catapults to the runways of the carriers like many carobar designs?
In theory, we could rebuild both Vikrant and Vikramaditya to be converted to CATOBAR carriers, but it would be a fairly significant rebuild. It would make a lot of sense, but the problem is that we don't have a catapult system.

See, steam catapults are easier to develop, operate, and maintain, but they require steam. Vikramaditya has a steam turbine system, so she could generate the needed steam organically. However, she would have to be significantly altered and strengthened to host catapults. Vikramt, on the other hand, operates on a gas turbine system, where you don't get steam. Generating steam separately makes little sense due to the energy wastage involved in that process.

Electromagnetic catapults don't require steam, but they are far more complex and expensive to develop, operate, and maintain. We have a scale model of an EMALS system ready, but it hasn't been scaled up for a carrier. The problem with EMALS is that it requires a massive amount of power, which neither of our carriers can spare when operating normally with their powerplants.
 
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.
Converting a STOBAR carrier to a CATOBAR carrier is possible, but it is a very expensive and complex proposition that essentially requires you to rebuild part of the ship.
 
I don't think any other Navies have Carriers with Catpults except US, France and China, Brazil recently decommissioned SaoPalo, most navies are converting to Flat deck helicopter ships. India, Russia and China have Skijump, Japan is converting one of their helicopter carrier to Skijump.
No, the Izumo-class will not have catapults. They will simply fly VSTOL F-35Bs, which can take off from the flat deck without catapults and land vertically.

Oh, and I didn't count China since the Type 003 hasn't entered service yet.
 
It isn't as easy as it sounds. The radar equipment needed for an AWACS aircraft is quite large and fairly heavy. Fitting that into a fighter isn't feasible beyond a point, and would impact the fighter's range and other capabilities quite adversely.
a simple radar that folds and unfolds under the belly just like in KA-31 could easily fit under Naval Tejas and would still be better than KA-31 in range, with GaN tech radars are getting lighter.
 
No, the Izumo-class will not have catapults. They will simply fly VSTOL F-35Bs, which can take off from the flat deck without catapults and land vertically.

Oh, and I didn't count China since the Type 003 hasn't entered service yet.
I didn't say Izumo has catapult, but japenese are converting them to Skijump, Chinese Type 003 Fujian that's been constructed is supposed to have EMALS.
 
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.
I think India is taking steps to co develop stuff with US, like how UK,australia and japan co-develop with america. We have signed a number of agreements and MoU in past year. And many meetings have been held at defence minister level etc for this purpose.

We could see some major announcements in next few years regarding co development
 
I didn't say Izumo has catapult, but japenese are converting them to Skijump, Chinese Type 003 Fujian that's been constructed is supposed to have EMALS.
Sorry, my mistake in writing that. The Izumo-class will not get a ski-jump either. The deck edge is being strengthened and re-shaped, but a ski-jump is not planned.

Oh, and I did not include China since the Type 003 has an untested EMALS and is yet to enter service. Once it does enter service, we can count China as well.
 
No. Indian navy has helicopter based AEW&C systems. They function well but their limitation is lesser range and cant be refuelled in air
We selected helos because it was better option than E-2 Hawkeye a'crafts or KJ-600.
 
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.
Lets give this task to HAL.. Its 2024 .. so hopefully by 2034 we may have some viable solution.
 
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.
Consolatory news is that no Chinese eqpt functions and is just junk.. so, lets not worry about them junkies of China.
 
I don't think any other Navies have Carriers with Catpults except US, France and China, Brazil recently decommissioned SaoPalo, most navies are converting to Flat deck helicopter ships. India, Russia and China have Skijump, Japan is converting one of their helicopter carrier to Skijump.
Sirji, why do helicopter carriers need ski jump ? Most are around 200mtrs which is very very tight for aircraft to land or take off.
 
Drdo is working on gulayl system….it’s a Y with 2 rubber strings and a leather catch where we put the plane and launch it…..every 70’s bacha made a prototype, since there were so many entries, they are evaluating the best one.
 
We selected helos because it was better option than E-2 Hawkeye a'crafts or KJ-600.
We selected helicopters because they were the only workable option for a STOBAR carrier such as Vikramaditya. You weren't going to be able to fly off a E-2 from Vikramaditya or Vikrant.

The drawbacks of the Ka-31 were known even at that point of time, but we went with the Ka-31 because it was either that or no AWACS capability unless you flew off an E-2 or an IAF AWACS aircraft from a shore base in support, which isn't always guaranteed.
 
a simple radar that folds and unfolds under the belly just like in KA-31 could easily fit under Naval Tejas and would still be better than KA-31 in range, with GaN tech radars are getting lighter.
No, it isn't as easy as it sounds. A massive flat radar sticking out of the bottom of an aircraft is a massive source of drag for an aircraft, which would impact flight conditions quite a bit.

Secondly, you would have to stow the radar in a position such that it wouldn't interfere with the folding undercarriage (the entire swing of the landing gears) or the tailhook, get any form of interfere from the engines, and would be flat enough so as to not hit the deck when the aircraft was taking off or landing.

The Ka-31 avoids these by having a vertically-lowering landing gear, and, since it is a helicopter, it takes off and lands in a flat manner rather than an incline such as an aircraft.

All of those things would leave little space for you to actually mount that radar under a fixed-wing aircraft.
 
All ospreys were grounded repeatedly few months ago due to repeated accidents. I think what india needs to do here is complete the development of deck based helicopter and churn out its variants with awacs, asw, refuelling capability.
A standard helicopter will not be feasible for use as a refueler simply due to the forward speed. The V-22 can do that since it is actually quite fast, and if the aircraft slows down significantly, you can actually fo aerial refueling. For a standard helicopter such as the DBMRH, you may require the aircraft being refueled to slow down to near stall speed, which is possible to do for refueling, but has a lot of operational risks that might see the idea not happen.
 
Tankers and AEW aircraft will be key to India's next gen 65-75000Ton carriers (hopefully with nuclear propulsion).
It won't be nuclear propulsion this was confirmed quite some time back becuz BARC demanded 15 years min to work on nuclear reactor capable of 65,000 tonne AC.
 
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.
That's bcoz, even though at one point of time they seriously considered it, they quickly realized that no AEWC aircraft can safely fly off a STOBAR carrier and u are thus compelled to use helicopter based AEWC. Here yhe Ka-31 is good enough for time being.
 

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