China is working hard on its ‘F-22 killer’ and other radars to better track US stealth aircraft

China military radar
Military radars on display at the 9th World Radar Expo in Nanjing in China’s Jiangsu Province, April 23, 2021.

  • Improvements to Chinese radar systems are being highlighted at an industry expo in Nanjing.
  • Developments are coming as many countries boost their defenses with drones and stealth aircraft.
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China has put the spotlight on its advanced radars, highlighting improvements in its ability to track US stealth aircraft at an industry expo, according to state media.

The hardware on display at the three-day World Radar Expo in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing included the long-range SLC-7, JY-26 and LC-8E systems, state-run Global Times reported on Friday.

Each of these systems can identify and track stealth aircraft, which are designed to avoid detection and carry out precision strikes against key military assets.

Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator and a former People’s Liberation Army instructor, said China was putting more attention on radars as China seeks to improve its ability to identify enemy targets amid various military threats.

“China is developing even more advanced systems such as metric wave, quantum and laser radars to further improve Chinese military’s tracking capabilities,” Song said.

He said China aimed to integrate radar systems throughout the country in a single early-warning network.

The expo, which ends on Saturday, showcases both military and civilian equipment for aerospace, aviation, shipping and detection.

China’s quest to have more advanced anti-stealth radars came as countries around the world are researching and buying stealth fighters or drones to boost their defences.

The SLC-7, developed by the Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology, is a long-range surveillance radar that can detect and track multiple targets at the same time, withstand saturation attacks, adapt to jamming, and rapidly identify targets, according to the Global Times.

The JY-26 is called the “F-22 killer” and can also identify and track other stealth objects like the B-2 bomber and F-35 stealth fighter jets.

The YLC-8E can detect and track aircraft more than 500km (310 miles) away as well as missile threats out to ranges of over 700 km.

The Global Times reported that the three systems were only a small portion of China’s anti-stealth radar family.

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This may be the new B-21 Raider stealth bomber’s first outdoor hangar

B-21 Raider bomber
An artist’s rendering of the B-21 at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.

  • The Air Force has built a prototype shelter for the new B-21 bomber at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.
  • It is one of a few mock-ups that the service is testing to find the most effective and affordable option for the bomber.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Air Force has begun constructing prototype shelters in anticipation of someday housing its next-generation bomber, B-21 Raider.

The service has erected a temporary prototype “Environmental Protection Shelter” at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, one of a few mock-up models that Air Force Global Strike Command and the B-21 Program Office are testing to find the most effective and affordable option for the Long Range Strike Bomber, according to release.

“Environmental Protection Shelters help extend the life of the aircraft and reduce required maintenance by limiting UV exposure, limiting snow accumulation and melt, and limiting icing/de-icing operations experienced by the aircraft over time,” Col. Derek Oakley, the command’s B-21 Integration and System Management Office director, said in the release.

“These shelters also help us generate sorties more quickly by eliminating the need to always have to move aircraft in and out of hangars,” he said in the March 3 announcement.

Ellsworth Air Force B-21 hangar shelter
The B-21 Raider Environmental Protection Shelter prototype at Ellsworth Air Force Base, February 26, 2021.

Air Force Magazine reported last week that the shelter is 200 feet wide and 100 feet deep, which is also big enough for the B-2 Spirit bomber. While the B-2’s wingspan runs 172 feet, it’s unknown how long or wide the B-21 aircraft may be.

The Air Force has said deliveries of the Raider, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, will begin in the mid-2020s. But the service has been careful not to broadcast details in order to protect its technology.

The Air Force is weighing just how many prototype shelters to place at each of the chosen B-21 bases. In 2019, the service named Ellsworth to become the first operational B-21 base; it will also host the bomber’s first formal training unit. Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, is the service’s preferred alternative.

Dyess and Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, are expected to receive B-21 Raiders “as they become available,” the service said at the time.

Following an environmental study, the Air Force will make its formal decision this summer on the final bases to host the B-21.

The service chose Ellsworth as its first EPS hangar location because its “weather conditions offer the opportunity to collect the most diverse amount of data,” according to the release.

“We will collect a few years of data on these shelters and then incorporate that data into the final Environmental Protection Shelter design,” Oakley said.

Any needed bomber maintenance will occur in indoor maintenance hangars, which is routine, he added.

Ellsworth Air Force B-21 hangar shelter
Contractors place a pair of beams for the B-21 Environmental Protection Shelter prototype at Ellsworth Air Force Base, January 28, 2021.

In January, service officials held a virtual B-21 industry day to discuss various construction projects.

Other facilities the B-21 will need, such as a low observable maintenance hangar to repair stealth coating and a general maintenance hangar, are in the planning stages, officials said.

The Air Force has said it plans to procure at least 100 Raiders, rounding out its bomber inventory to 175, including its B-52 Stratofortress fleet.

However, Gen. Tim Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, has often proposed a bomber force of more than 200 aircraft.

“We’ve said publicly that we think we need 220 bombers overall – 75 B-52s and the rest B-21s, long term,” Ray told Air Force Magazine last year.

The Raider passed its critical design review in December 2018, a pivotal milestone for the program.

– Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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