China’s KJ-500 early warning aircraft has been spotted with an aerial refueling probe above its nose in Zhuhai, ahead of the Airshow China 2022 (Nov.8-13).
This means the new KJ-500 likely can receive aerial refueling, which can greatly enhance the early warning aircraft's range and endurance for extended missions, Chinese observers told state media.
This variant of the aircraft was first noticed in the background of a photograph published by China Military Online owned by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 2020. It was painted in yellow instead of naval gray, indicating that the aircraft was undergoing tests.
KJ-500 is based on the Y-9 medium-sized tactical transport aircraft, which has a limited operational radius and endurance compared to large, strategic transport aircraft. The addition of an aerial refueling feature could make up for this shortcoming.
China's first aircraft carrier-based, fixed-wing early warning aircraft, reportedly called the KJ-600, successfully made its maiden flight in August 2020.