China’s Navy Reveals Rare Appearance of Gaoxin-8 Electronic Warfare Aircraft in New Low Observable Coating

In recent days, a certain unit of the Navy aviation force of the Northern Theater Command of China organized flight training, with several aircraft heading to designated airspace to carry out exercises such as anti-ship assault and group confrontation, enhancing the force’s aerial information warfare capabilities.

Participating in this training is the rarely seen Gaoxin-8 Integrated Electronic Warfare Aircraft of the Navy, which not only made an appearance but also sported a brand-new low observable coating, adding a more intense “combat flavor.”

The special-purpose aircraft participating in this exercise belong to the Navy’s Gaoxin-8 series, which rarely makes public appearances. Moreover, these aircraft have been outfitted with a new low observable coating, adding to their combat effectiveness.

The PLA’s special aircraft family originates from the “Gaoxin Project,” forming a group of aircraft developed based on the Y-8 and Y-9 transport platforms, equipped with advanced electronic technology and reconnaissance equipment for electronic countermeasures, electronic reconnaissance, maritime patrol, anti-submarine warfare, airborne command, airborne early warning, special aerial survey, and other tasks, all named with “Gaoxin” (High-New), hence referred to as the “Gaoxin Family.”

Compared to the highly secretive electronic warfare aircraft, anti-submarine and early warning aircraft in the Gaoxin family often appear in public reports. For example, the Gaoxin-5 and Gaoxin-9 correspond to the KJ-200 and KJ-500 respectively, while the Gaoxin-6 is the KQ-200, which has frequently appeared in recent years.

As the name suggests, the Gaoxin-8 Integrated Electronic Warfare Aircraft ranks eighth in the Chinese military’s “Gaoxin Family” and is also known as the Y-9JB. It is China’s new generation of naval electronic intelligence collection and integrated electronic warfare aircraft, mainly used for anti-submarine patrols, electronic warfare, intelligence collection, and other missions.

The Gaoxin-8 is a follow-up model of the Gaoxin-2, with its main tasks and functions similar to the U.S. EP-3, and has become the main type for conducting long-range naval electronic reconnaissance missions. The aircraft can be used to detect and track radar, radio, and other electronic communication signals, intercept, monitor, collect, and decipher signals, providing tactical intelligence required for situational analysis to the Chinese military.

As shown in the images, the rare appearance of the Gaoxin-8 this time showcased its new low observable coating, which is more tailored to combat requirements. This coating, predominantly in gray-green, not only adopts similar tones for the PLA emblem and aircraft number but also renders the “Chinese Navy” in a hollow font of the same color, with the internal filling color consistent with the aircraft body, making it difficult to distinguish without careful observation.

As early as 2020, the Chinese Air Force issued the “Air Force Aircraft Coating and Marking Spray Regulations (Trial),” marking the beginning of the comprehensive adoption of low observable coatings by the Chinese Air Force. Since then, third-and-a-half generation fighters of the Chinese Air Force, such as the J-16 and J-10C, have successively adopted this coating. In July 2021, the low observable coating of Chinese Navy aviation force aircraft was also exposed, with more and more Chinese naval aircraft, from the J-11BH to the Su-30, from the JH-7 to the KQ-200, donning the new attire.

For large aerial platforms like the Gaoxin-8, this low observable coating not only enhances the aircraft’s stealthiness but also possesses a certain counter-reconnaissance capability. During mid-to-long-range observations, it’s almost impossible to accurately identify the specific model and country of origin of the aircraft. Simultaneously, as the aircraft numbers are difficult to discern in ordinary images, enemy intelligence personnel find it challenging to obtain information that was once readily available. The application of this coating undoubtedly provides better protection for aircraft like the Gaoxin-8 in actual combat situations.

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