PLA retrofits old bombers as electronic warfare aircraft
Old bomber fleet has been given a new role to play to jam radars and communications of a foe
The PLA Navy’s South Sea Fleet, based in the city of Zhanjiang in the southern province of Guangdong, has commissioned a new fleet of electronic-warfare aircraft in its recent combat maneuvers.
H-6G bombers converted into radar-jamming and deception warplanes have electronic countermeasure (ECM) pods under their wings after the People’s Liberation Army spent almost a decade retrofitting them, according to a China Central Television program. The H-6G was originally a variant of the H-6 bomber designed to guide and provide targeting data to ground-launched cruise missiles.
One such H-6G ECM plane was seen in a recent South Sea Fleet sea-air maneuver in the Western Pacific.
The modified H-6G fitted with ECM pods can engage in combat missions using electronic jamming, suppression, and anti-radiation, the CCTV program said.
The decades-old H-6G bombers will thus be given an extended lease of service as a new electronic warcraft while the PLA is expediting the modernization of its bomber fleet with H-6Ks and H-20s.
“The main role of the electronic fighters is to pre-empt and obstruct a foe’s electronic … devices like radars, and further paralyze these surveillance devices so as to hide our combat platforms’ track and routes,” military expert and TV commentator Song Zhongping told the Global Times.
Large portions of the South and East China Seas, particularly disputed islets and reefs involved in conflicting territorial claims by China and neighboring countries, can be covered by the H-6Gs’ powerful ECM pods, Song said.
Such warcraft that can jam a foe’s communications and radars could be vital now that China, the US and other countries have revved up patrols of these waters.
China has developed advanced, versatile ECM pods to be mounted on various fighter jets for such combat requirements, such as the J-15 or even J-20 fighters.
China’s tandem JH-7 fighter-bomber was also seen carrying such ECM pods in previous PLA Air Force military drills.
The Chinese military has always aspired to have an indigenous version of the US Navy’s EA-18G Growler warplane, a variant of the F/A-18F Super Hornet. Retrofitting H-6Gs is seen as a step toward converting more warplanes, including shipborne fighters, into electronic-warfare planes, analysts say.