China Seeks Airborne Radar From Russia

Visiting Beijing in early November, Russian officials discussed possible new arms deals with China, including the sale of up to five planes designed for airborne early-warning (AEW) missions. China currently does not possess any AEW platforms, which enable militaries to significantly extend the range at which they can monitor foreign military activities and guide their own aircraft. In 1996, China concluded a deal to acquire an Israeli AEW system, known as the Phalcon, but Israel pulled out of the deal July 11 under heavy U.S. pressure. Washington had been concerned about how the sale could impact the military balance in the Taiwan Strait. (See ACT, September 2000.)

Russia is reportedly offering China upgraded versions of the Beriev A-50 plane, referred to as "Mainstay" by NATO, which would permit China to simultaneously track tens, and perhaps hundreds, of targets as far as 400 kilometers away, while directing some 10-30 Chinese aircraft. A June 2000 Pentagon report indicated that Chinese incorporation of AEW and aerial refueling planes could be a "significant force multiplier for China's air forces, although only for relatively small numbers of aircraft at any one time."

China is also reportedly interested in buying an additional two Sovremennyy-class destroyers from Russia. The first of two previously bought destroyers arrived in China this past February, while the second is expected to arrive by the end of the year.