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KLJ-7A: Proposed AESA radar for JF-17 undergoing tests
February 22, 2018
KLJ-7A AESA radar undergoing tests with the CFTE's 711 unit. Photo source: CCTV (via East Pendulum)

KLJ-7A: Proposed AESA radar for JF-17 undergoing tests

CCTV News footage shows that the Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET) KLJ-7A is undergoing tests with the China Flight Test Establishment’s 711 unit.

Revealed at Air Show China 2016, the NRIET KLJ-7A is a proposed AESA radar for the JF-17 Block-III, which is to be the JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter’s most significant upgrade. The JF-17 is the mainstay fighter of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and is co-produced by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).

In comparison to current-generation mechanically-steered radars, AESA radars provide key defensibility gains against electronic warfare (EW) jamming and enemy radar detection. Instead of relying on a single array that transmits a different frequency per-single-pulse, AESA radars utilize many arrays – i.e. transmit and receive modules (TRM) – that can each transmit in a different frequency. In unison, these TRMs enable a single AESA radar unit to transmit in different frequencies simultaneously.

East Pendulum was informed by NRIET deputy director Wang Hongzhe that the KLJ-7A has a range of 170 km, though it is unclear if this is against 5m² RCS (radar cross-section) or 3m² RCS targets. It can track 15 targets and engage four simultaneously. Though equipped with 1,000 TRMs, it is not known if the KLJ-7A’s TRMs are built from gallium arsenide (GaA) or gallium nitride (GaN).

In China, NRIET is competing with AVIC’s 607 research institute – i.e. Leihua Electronic Technology Research Institute (LETRI) – for the PAF’s Block-III contract, which is expected to comprise of 50 new-built aircraft. LETRI is pitching an air-cooled AESA radar, which omits dedicated liquid-cooling systems, thereby providing valuable space and weight benefits optimal for lightweight fighter platforms.

Leonardo’s Selex ES division had pitched the Vixen 1000E AESA radar as well, though industry analysts are skeptical that the PAF will select the Vixen. The PAF’s JF-17s are equipped with the SD-10 beyond-visual range (BVR) air-to-air missile (AAM) and C-802 anti-ship missile (AShM). These necessitate direct linkage to the radar for pre-terminal-stage guidance. It is unlikely that either side will cede their respective source codes to make linkage between Chinese munitions and European radars possible.

The PAF is also hoping to eventually manufacture AESA radars domestically at PAC. Proceeding with NRIET and/or LETRI for the JF-17 could set the stage for those entities to assist Pakistan in its efforts, which will be an integral aspect of Project Azm, which envisages developing and producing a 5th-generation fighter for the PAF. It is unlikely that Leonardo would be as forthcoming in this regard.

  • amar

    In my humble opinion Pakistan should first consider working on passive phased array radar similar to Rajendra before jumping onto Active arrays. This will give them valuable insight into designing a phased array, various signal processing algorithm, testing etc. I am talking about designing a phased array from scratch and not just license assembly.

    • mh1975

      i dont think its wise to waste money on obsolete tech

      • Sami Shahid

        Yes it’s better if install AESA Radar & HMD system as quickly as possible. Later we can get the technology

      • amar

        Can you run before learning to walk? To be fairly honest, Pakistan hasnt designed any phased arrays– I am not talking about a gigantic phased array prototype but real miniaturized phased array employing thousands of phase shifters. So, in order for Pakistan to actually start working on active arrays, they should first master passive arrays with a horn feeding the phase shifters. Also, Pakistan doesnt have to initiate every project in response to what India does, they should acknowledge their strength and weakness and initiate a project accordingly.

        • Very true but our friends are pressing hard to jump blindly, you are quite right certain things are very important to understand and follow the logicaly better method to get solution of the problem just assembling of kit is not a R& D we have technical know how basic infrastructure everything is available .

    • Sami Shahid

      Developing AESA Radar or installing AESA on our air craft are two different things. We are in a hurry to equip our fighter jet with AESA Radar & HMD system. Later we can get the technology to make our dream a reality. So don’t take me wrong. I’m just trying to tell you that we need to equip our block 3 with AESA & HMD quickly.

      • amar

        My point is, you can surely get the stuff from china and install it in your jets. But will it really enrich the folks in PAC to design one such system from scratch? I believe at some point Pakistan would have to undertake some sort of phased array design because the rival India is sweeping ahead in active phased arrays. I mean if we look at India, then we can clearly see the trend i.e
        parablic reflector based search radars, Indra series(80s)–> Passive phased array radars, Rajendra(early-mid 90s)–> Active phased array radars without digital beam forming, LSTAR(early 2000s)–> Active phased array with digital beam forming, Arudhra and Ashwin (early 2010s)–> Active phased array with GaN substrate, Army tactical fire control radar.(2018-2019).
        So if Pakistan wishes to at least be in the race, then they would have to start somewhere with something they could understand, and assimilate. Because how things are, Pakistan is probably at the point where India was in 80s in radar related research and development.

        • Steve

          Your argument does not convince at all. It’s like saying if you setup a new Mercedes AMG plant with German help you need to build Model T fords, Morris minors, Chevrolet’s, Toyota Corolla and waste years before you build the Mercedes. With help we will leap over the old 70s, 80s, and 90s tech. Especially if it is a declared aim.

          • amar

            Hi Steve! My argument might not convince a lot of folks– especially those who have never worked on any such projects and who follow various nationalistic blogs where self proclaimed experts write stuff that are far far different from reality. For starters what you’ve written above is as hollow as your automobile industry– I wonder why you choose that reference to begin with. Anyways, lets get down to it, shall we?
            First off assembling a Merc with CKDs or CBUs is quite different from “designing” and “manufacturing” your own car. I can understand the ommision of words like “research”, “design” from general lexicon of a lot of Pakistani folks(A majority!)–which is perhaps the reason why a lot of Pakistanis think license assembly is same as designing your own product and mass producing it. What I wanted to allude to was, latter, that is, in order for Pakistan to have some serious radar design and development capability, they should start working on proper passive phased arrays first and get the requisite experience related to designing phase shifters, beam forming, and various signal processing algorithms. Because without the existence of an industry that can support such a venture or without requisite experience in various aspects of passive/active radar design, Pakistan will never be in a position to fully understand or master the process(if at all any phased array is ever assembled in Pakistan). Also if Pakistan doesnt start now, no one is gonna simply hand over all the technology to Pakistan on a platter. The ToT is a misnomer.

            Now whether pakistan really wants to have radar design capability or not is entirely a different debate. And we can surely debate the intent, however my point wasnt intention but a more general one and that was– Pakistan would have to start with something that it can design on her own if it wishes to be in the race. Or else, India will get so far ahead in near future that any comparison in “radar design and development capability” will appear ridiculous.

          • Lasit

            Brother , that was a really good effort to explain few things. But you can make only those people understand who are willing to learn and acknowledge.

            Pure logic and data/fact driven discussions don’t really go well with all the participants. I would suggest you to put your efforts and direct your discussions to specific people, who at least can comprehend it.. cheers

          • Steve

            You put some effort in so I will respond. Stuff built under licence with progressive manufacturing will solve the problem. A LOT of countries do it. I did not say we will “assemble” only so don’t ascribe that to me. Initially you are assembling and then progressively manufacture, as scientists and technicians acquire skill and knowledge. Air University will see to that. You completely gloss over the problem of quality of your shoddy products built by high sounding organisations “indigenously” that will not survive 5 minutes in a real battlefield, and hold that up as a badge of honour that you are doing “original” research. All the hundreds or your “consultants” hired for virtually every major project hide the fact that you too have needed constant help for the last 40 years and still are the largest arms importers in the whole world. You can’t boast about one and gloss over the other bitter fact. Constantly talking down Pakistan’s effort will not stop our progress. All we need is a good strategic partner with the knowledge. We will find the know-how from our Iron brothers or the Ottomans, both of which will help us for strategic reasons and to maintain stability in the subcontinent. We don’t have build model T fords lol. Pakistan Zindabad!

  • Aquib Hussain

    As Rafale RBE2AA radar has 838 T/R as per Wikipedia. Does that means KLJ7A is better coz it has 1000T/R ?

    • Lasit

      not really. bigger number of R/T is good, but more importantly it is more important to have better receivers and algorithm to analysis data. GaN bases AESA are better, and more sensitive to faint reflections.

      R/T number is much like the megapixel number is a camera. higher number with bigger size and sensitivity are the three factors with system processing makes a better radar…

    • Joseph

      Not just that. RBE2-AA is a GaA based radar according to wikipedia, which is supposed to be inferior than GaN based AESA radar that KLJ-7A seems to be.

      JF-17 block 3 is also supposed to have stealth features and as a smaller plane block 3 could end up having an overall smaller RCS compare to Rafale, that and a superior radar could give JF-17 an advantage in BVR fight.

      • bolokolotolo

        Actually the RBE-2I on India’s Rafales will be GaN based.
        French are charging $300 million more for that reason only.

      • Lasit

        stealth depends on reflective surface design and surface coating material. hence material coating itself on the aluminium body of Block iii is not going to make it stealthy, unless the complete design is changed. so if someone is saying that JF-17 block 3 is going to be stealth with the same design, than he must be joking ..

  • Why not assissting ang and encouraging the local entity developed a AESA radar ground tests were conducted and was passed , important is to engage local companies in this business and most important and better to start with a PHASED ARRAY radar designing , developing to gain experince and valuable insight regarding system , instead of jumping its a gambling just assembling a kit is not an achievement and filling but not bridging the gap .

  • Joseph

    From what I hear the surface of GaA AESA radar would have an array of small chips sticking out and GaN has a flat surface. The photo of KLJ-7A is showing a flat surface so I think it is a GaN AESA radar, which is supposed to be newer and better.

    • Lasit

      read this article, should answer your questions and also clarify few big claims by the chinese

      https://www.sinodefenceforum.com/chinese-radar-developments-klj-series-and-others.t6755/

      • Joseph

        China’s claim aside. It does not answer the question here, which is whether KLJ-7A is GaN based.

        • Lasit

          It is not. Currently only one company manufactures power amplifier in excess of 80mw which can be used in GaN based radars. That company is Cree, and they have exclusive contract to supply it to the US OEMs. So the Chinese have to wait few more years before they can make GaN based radar.

          • Joseph

            Another baseless claim without any credible source. Do your guys have anything other than that?

            I know your guys are upset that expensive Rafale India bought could be inferior to a far cheaper JF-17 block 3, but soon or later your guys will have to face that reality.

          • Lasit

            Where is your “credible” source to say that KLJ 7A is going to be GaN based. Show me a single credible source to prove that Chinese have that technology.

          • Joseph

            I never said I had concrete evidence that KLJ7A is GaN based. You see, unlike your two I don’t make that kind of claims.

          • Headstrong

            ‘I know your guys are upset that expensive Rafale India bought could be inferior to a far cheaper JF-17 block 3, but soon or later your guys will have to face that reality’
            Source?

  • Sami Shahid

    In my opinion, PAF should buy AESA Radar & HMD system as soon as possible while PAC should start working on the development of Long endurance UAV which can fly for at least 24 hours & carry a payload of 200 kg with a height of at least 30,000 feet.

  • Aquib Hussain

    If RBE2AA has a rangle of 110-130km for 1m^2 with 838T/R (as per wikkipedia) than for sure KLJ-7A has a min 170 km range for 3m^2 with 1000 T/R. Any experts??

    • Lasit

      as i explained earlier, number of R/T in a radar is like number of megapixel in a a camera, it does not mean that higher R/T means better radar. overall performance depends on these things – power output of the transmitters, surface area of the receivers, sensitivity of the receiver material (GaA vs GaN- GaN better) and at last number of R/T. additionally, software to analyse the data is also important.

  • Joseph

    It would be more convincing if you have citable sources on your claims.

    • amar

      I think both of you should provide citation source for your claims. But I do not think the first chinese exportable AESA will use GaN substrates. That too with air cooling– that itself defies all logic!

      • Joseph

        Information about RBE2-AA being GaA based is from wikipedia:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RBE2

        Quote:”The RBE2-AA (active array) variant has been tested on a Mystère 20, ……. The radar is using about 838 GaAs T/R modules.”

        Information about KLJ-7A is from a less credible source (That is why I use “From what I hear”) but seems the guy knows what he is talking about: https://forum.keypublishing.com/showthread.php?141821-Radar-AESA-GaN-vs-Radar-AESA-GaAs-!

        Read #16:”Distinctively through its appearance, AESA GaAs has a number of striking microchips on its surface, while AESA GaN is a flat surface.” and “KLJ-7A = AESA GaN”

        • amar

          That is the problem here, you “choose” to give “credence” to someone’s statement and assumed it to be “true”. Doesnt it strike you that companies like Thales that are literally at the fore front of AESA radar design and development(alongwith Raytheon etc) will somehow design a system inferior to the chinese one? Let me point couple of things for you, based on my very little experience(have worked with passive phased arrays):
          1) T/R count alone doesnt determine everything. We should also take into account the average power of each T/R as well.
          2) What also matters is if the radar has digital beam forming. What it means is, each radiating element will have an ADC just behind it. This is what makes the AESA the truly awesome radar it really is. Older gen AESAs did not have digital beam forming. This also means one can theoretically have as many beams as there are elements. However that is rarely done because of power issues.
          3) Lastly and perhaps most importantly, the signal processing algorithms. Radar development these days are bottleneched more by algorithmic complexities than physical constraints. Designing signal processing algorithm for look down mode of operation is real pain.

          • Joseph

            That is not a problem. You have to judge how reliable the information is base on your knowledge, that is just common sense.

            “T/R count alone doesnt determine everything”. Yeah, but that is just about the most obvious and most important figure. It is like talking about car engines. Of course size of car engines does not determine everything, but in general a 4L engine is more powerful than a 2L one, a V8 is more powerful than V6, and usually the bigger the engine the better the car.

            Look, if you are not interested in truth, I would understand, I had enough of nationalist pride. Because all I hear is arguments instead of any interests of exploring the truth.

          • Steve

            Well said

        • MT

          I can’t believe that u r harping on naive forum Comments to make inference for KLJ7 A which is first exportable aesa radar from china .

          Good luck for hoping it to become a first gaN flight radar in the universe.

    • MT

      Northrop Grumman is the first company in the world to be able to miniaturize GaN aesa radar

      No other company have managed to develop it as yey

      • Joseph

        And your source would be?

        • MT

          There isn’t an GaN based AESA fighter radar currently flying.
          Northrop Grumman , pioneer of Aesa GaA/GaN technology became the first company to introduce GaA based Aesa radar in early 1993

          They are also the first company whose GaN prototype was accepted and won the Contract for Nine miniaturized GaN G/ATOR Systems for APN83/8x t to be fitted on aircraft

          • Joseph

            Thanks for the Northrop Grumman commercial, I hope they are paying you for this stuff. But I am out.

          • MT

            Precisely there are no other ground base GaN radar in the world. Account 5+ more yrs in GaN based flight radar development.

            Director, mission solutions, Northrop Grumman is an Indian american:)
            She Quotes:

            “There are no other GaN ground-based active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars in production today,” said Roshan Roeder, director, mission solutions, Northrop Grumman. “G/ATOR is the first DoD ground-based AESA system to incorporate GaN in a production program.

          • Saab Giraffe 4A/8A, Hensoldt TRML-4D.

          • MT

            So there are three ground based gaN radar in production. But there are none flight gaN radar

          • Technically, there’s the Erieye ER, but that’s an AEW&C.

  • Joseph

    None of what you said had any citable sources. Do you have anything at all to support any of your claims?

    • Lasit
      • Joseph

        Why are you posting a defense forum page? You know this is a defense forum as well, and there are still plenty of baseless claims. If you have something remotely credible then please post it, otherwise you are just wasting my time.

      • Joseph

        The main source for the forum seems to be this: https://manglermuldoon.blogspot.com.au/2015/01/the-technological-maturity-of-chinese.html

        It is a 2015 blog, which is not only obsolete, also quite irrelevant to our discussion here.

        • Lasit

          dude radar technology does not change like iPhone, where 2 new models come out every year. so info from 2015 is very much relevant

          also stop crying for credible sources. I am not your primary school teacher to teach you basics of these things. do some search and you will find enough “credible” sources in science journals and research papers. but of course if you really read those.

          • Joseph

            In fact it does, I think GaN technology come out around 2015. But it is quite clear now, neither of you is interested in the truth, it is really just about nationalist pride for your two. So I guess I will ignore both of you from now on.

    • They have not any source to support their claim but insisting for thier neck breacking costly system , no doubt RAFALE is a potent but not a least we living in a technology explosion era where overnight changing is happening and changing the whole scenario.

    • MT

      1. Israeli built their first aesa radar in late 2000s a decade ahead of first chinese aesa radar
      China couldnt imagine producing a TRM to that level of miniaturization in 2000s.

      J-10 received its IOC in October 2014, is the first Chinese fighter to feature its first AESA .

      2. APG-77 was used in F22 is another GaA substrate which is being replaced with APG81(gaA) for F35 .

      Northrop Grumman , Thales, Finmeccanica and Elta are still working to master GaN technology.
      Northrop Grumman Awarded Contract for Nine GaN G/ATOR Systems for APN83 which are the first GAN radar to be built on an aircraft
      Saab claims to develop a GaN prototype radar at university of chalmbers in 2014 but they are yrs away from miniaturizing it.

      2. As Lasit pointed out , Hardware capability means nothing if you cant harness all its feature
      s via the software’s.
      Third gen gaA radar have many more strike modes, sub meter SAR resolution, with strong beam steering capability.
      multiple ground moving target indication, target identification and tracking.

      Sensor processing system comprising of Software based radar requires decade effort in fine signal processing software , optimization, developing new algorithms, fine tuning parameters.
      Multi core signal processor of APG 77 can execute 700 million instruction/second and those instructions, optimized code are written by some of the top most programmers in ada, C++, Assembly who have decades of experience

      • Joseph

        Not only baseless, none of this is related to what you said before. Do you have anything you can provide a source at all?

        • MT

          Let me clarify them all one by one

          1. Not just that. RBE2-AA is a GaA based radar according to wikipedia, which is supposed to be inferior than GaN based AESA radar that KLJ-7A seems to be.

          => How did you assume that KJK/7A is GaN radar.
          Chinese have only developed 2nd Gen Aesa GaA technology. Dont go by the no of T/R modules. Radar processing(signal processing ), no of instruction / cycle, software maturity , optimization plays a major role in deciding capability of radar.

          Their first aesa radar came 2 decades after the first aesa radar was built in usa. There is no American GaN based AESA fighter radar currently flying.

          Northrop Grumman , pioneer of Aesa GaA/GaN technology became the first company to introduce GaA based Aesa radar in early 1993

          They are also the first company whose GaN prototype was accepted and won the Contract for Nine miniaturized GaN G/ATOR Systems for APN83/8x t to be fitted on aircraft

          2.
          JF-17 block 3 is also supposed to have stealth features and as a smaller plane block 3 could end up having an overall smaller RCS compare to Rafale, that and a superior radar could give JF-17 an advantage in BVR fight.

          => JF17 block would not have any 5 th or 4.5 gen stealth features.
          Its still made up of aluminium body with very almost 0 % of composite. Any surface coating material on aluminum body is not going to help much.

          Unlike JF17 any 3/4 block which comes in future, Rafale has large % of composite body with stealth design features and stealth coating.
          It also uses a spectra jammer which reduce the rcs of Rafale to 0.1

    • Brother indians friends have nothing to say but crying for pak china cooperation and development of jf-17 and no more they are talking off the topica even they dont know about the exact state of TEJAS ,why IAF and indian NAVY rejected , main problem is endurance, post flight servicing hour , payload , service life in all aspect even jf-17 blk 1 is superior .

  • China_Lee

    China’s KLJ-7A AESA radar has 1,000 transmit/receive modules (TRM). This means it is equivalent to the F-16 Block 60 AESA radar in the number of transmit/receive modules.

    “Though equipped with 1,000 TRMs, it is not known if the KLJ-7A’s TRMs are built from gallium arsenide (GaA) or gallium nitride (GaN).” (fourth paragraph in the news article)

  • Lasit

    even if the Block 3 comes with KLJ- 7A and with all the tall claims in range and all, what it will have to face is the NIIP N011M Bars in Super Sukhoi-30. with a search range of more than 450 Km + and tracking range of 200 + Km (for 3 sq Meter RCS), the poor JF -17 B3 will be tracked for a missile release even before it can know that there is someone hunting for it.

    by the way, the NIIP N011M Bars has a ground facing detection range of 250+ km. so literally, an IAF Super Sukhoi can detect a PAF JF-17 during its taxi time without leaving Indian Airspace..

    • Aquib Hussain

      any source that claims NIIP N011M Bars has such tremendous range?

      • Lasit

        there are thousand of sources. this is going to be an updated version of Erbis E on Su-35.. make some effort to read up, it will be helpful ..

      • Keyser

        It can allegedly detect a f16/mi21 type target out to 140 KM but take all such distances with a large pinch of salt as it does not account for other factors. Besides if your plane is so large it can be detected by an awacs (Bigger radar etc) miles away the radar on it isn’t that important. (The 300KM detection range is for su27 type targets)

    • Steve

      You are making it out like two fighter aircraft will be slugging in out in some mythical subcontinental boxing ring hahaha. Hilariously unprofessional argument. We plan to use ZDK-03 and Erieye with full integration with all air assets to cover any future air war. Your argument is moot.

      This is what we should get and hopefully the brass are looking at it.

      https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.popsci.com/amp/chinas-new-ramjet-engine-triple-range-missiles

      You guys really do need constant reassurance against Pakistan, and literally live for constantly counting and drooling over your weapons! The fear is palpable.

  • Dodo

    China deems JF-17 as a low cost multi role fighter for export. Pakistan also wants to export this jet to earn some money. IMHO, JF-17 must outperform all F-16 up to block 52 as second hand F-16 could be a competitor.

    Upgrade F-16 to F-16V (also equip AESA radar) is NOT cheap, could be enough to buy a JF-17 but upgraded F-16 cannot use for long as its body and other equipment are still aged. Buy a new F-16V? Same money could buy near 3 JF-17.

    Today’s fighter jet’s key is avionics and fire control system. Even though JF-17 can carry less weapon loads than JF-17 and JAS-39, with advanced avionics and fire control system which are capable to find other fighter jets before they can find them, JF-17 could be attractive.

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