KLJ-7A: Proposed AESA radar for the JF-17 Block-III
November 20, 2018
The Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET) KLJ-7A active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar. Photo credit: East Pendulum (http://www.eastpendulum.com)

KLJ-7A: Proposed AESA radar for the JF-17 Block-III

The Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET) has unveiled a new active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar at the Zhuhai Air Show, reportedly for use with the JF-17 Block-III.

Designated the KLJ-7A, it appears that NRIET will market the new AESA radar as a replacement to the KLJ-7 and KLJ-7V2 currently onboard the JF-17 Block-I and Block-II, respectively.

The KLJ-7A’s feature list includes track while scan, multi-object targeting and multi-target engagement, and synthetic aperture radar with ground moving target identification (among others).

Specific details, such as the materials or number of transceiver modules (TRM), were not listed. According to Henri Kenhmann (via East Pendulum), NRIET’s deputy director Wang Hongzhe stated that the radar has a maximum range of 170 km (likely in reference to a radar cross-section of 5m2).

Kenhmann also reported that the KLJ-7A can simultaneously track 15 targets and engage four.

Notes & Comments:

Based on the photos being circulated on several online discussion mediums, the KLJ-7A appears to be a small radar suite, one appropriate for the JF-17’s limited internal space. The name may indicate that the KLJ-7A is a direct development of the KLJ-7, but the images suggest that the KLJ-7A is a distinct design. In other words, it does not appear that the KLJ-7A and KLJ-7/V2 share anything beyond the name.

The inclusion of an AESA radar is the centerpiece of the JF-17 Block-III program, the first major iterative update of the JF-17 Thunder lightweight multi-role fighter.

In general, an AESA radar would provide greatly improved electronic counter-countermeasure (ECCM) capabilities, meaning, higher resistance to enemy active electronic warfare (EW) jamming.

This is achieved using hundreds of solid-state TRMs, each serving as a ‘micro-radar’ of sorts transmitting a unique signal simultaneously. For jamming pods, this makes the task of identifying, recording and re-transmitting all those signals, which change with each pulse, difficult.

This method also helps with shielding the radar from being detected by enemy radar warning receivers – i.e. giving it a ‘low-probability-of-intercept.’

Although Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s Vixen AESA radar line was identified as an option by PAF officials (during the 2015 Paris Air Show), NRIET’s KLJ-7A seems like it was designed with the JF-17 directly in mind, and as such, could potentially offer a superior balance of performance, integration complexity, and price.