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First of four Pak-Chinese ZDK-03 Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C) Karakoram Eagle for the Pakistan Air Force was displayed in a rollout ceremony was held at Hanzhong in China. Pakistan Air Force’s chief Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman was the guest of honor for this ceremony at this ceremony. It was also attended by the Commander of the PLA Air Force and other military and civil officials from the China.

Pakistan Air Force signed an agreement for the joint development of four ZDK-03 AEW&C aircraft Karakoram Eagle which were to be configured to meet Pakistan's specifications in 2008 with China Electronics Technology Group Corporation.


The ZDK-03 AEW&C is specifically designed to meet the requirements of the Pakistani airforce. It has very advance AESA radar along with other sensors and communications equipment. This arrangement is similar to the one being used by the E-2C/D Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning Aircraft used by the USN.

This arrangement will allow ZDK-03 AEW&C Karakoram Eagle to provide 360ยบ radar coverage. Air Chief Marshal Suleman has said that this event as "another milestone in the exemplary history of cooperation between Pakistan and China”. This AEW&C aircraft will strengthen the PAF's capabilities to maintain "peace with honour in the region".


Generally speaking ZDK-03 AEW&C Karakoram Eagle is very much similar to the P-3 Orion aircraft fitted with the E-2C Hawkeye 2000 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) suite which were offered to the Pakistan Navy. ZDK-03 AEW&C Karakoram Eagle will offer PAF with long-range, high endurance and extra internal space for the equipment and personal when compared to the Saab-2000 AEW&C Erieye.

After the development of the KJ-2000 AWACS which is based on the IL-76 military transport aircraft and KJ-200 Balance Beam AEW&C based on Chinese Y08 aircraft in 2001/02, development of the a type of AEW&C aircraft was revealed in 2005. This AEW&C aircraft like KJ-200 is also based on Y-8 Turboprop Transport Aircraft. This AEW&C was based on the Y-8F400 airframe and it was equipped with the conventional rotodome mounted above the fuselage to carry the Radar for Early warning.

The Y-8F-400 aircraft was an improvement over the older Y-8 models. ZDK-03 AEW&C Karakoram Eagle is based on the Y-8F600 which is the most advance variant of the Y-8 aircraft . This version of y-8 has been extensively upgraded with modern technologies including turboprop engine and avionics.

The Y-8F600 is also called “Category-III Platform” which can be used as platform for the airborne early warning, ELINT) or as a maritime patrol aircraft. Y-8F600 features new advanced glass cockpit which only requires only crew of two to operate. Compared to earlier versions Y-8F600 offers significant improvement in the take-off performance from hot and high airports and high altitude cruise performance, reduced noise levels.


Chinese KJ-2000 AWACS based on the IL-76 carries AESA Radar within its fixed rotodome in a triangular arrangement to provide a 360 degree coverage, on the other hand ZDK03 AEW&C Karakoram Eagle have a conventional rotating rotodome very much like that of E-3 and E-2C/D to provide a 360 degree coverage.

ZDK-03 AEW&C Karakoram Eagle has single active electronically steered array radar from the Chinese KJ-2000 which is mounted on a turboprop-powered Y-8F600 in a rotating rotodome. It was because of the high performance and low cost of this AEW&C system after joing Pak-China upgrade that forced PAF to reduce its order for the Saab-2000 AEW&C Eireye from 6 to 4 systems.




Pakistani Saab-2000 Erieye AEW&C at Dubai Air Show 2011




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  1. Phalcon Israeli AWACS were in dreams of China before 5 years but never materialized. Where as IAF managed to get Israeli Phalcon AWACS Advanced model for India thru diplomatic channels. IAF Beriev & IAF indigenously made Embraer DRDO AWACS will be increased in numbers with mid-air refueling facility & advanced avionic & powerful Electronic counter measure will definitely & around 120 Su 27fighterjets with AWACS facility will pose threat to PAF & PLAAF

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