J-16D, China’s SEAD aircraft seen as never before

Gastón Dubois

Updated on:

Shenyang J-16D

During Zhuhai Airshow 2021, which will begin tomorrow, Sep 29th, the J-16D, a fighter aircraft designed to suppress enemy air defenses (SEAD), will be introduced to the public for the first time.

Although this 13th China International Aerospace Exhibition (also known as Zhuhai Airshow) has not yet officially started, several interesting novelties were already anticipated on social networks, on top of the J-16D stands out.

This aircraft is a variant of the J-16 multirole fighter, itself an evolution of the Shenyang J-11 (based on the Su-27SK/UBK) and the Sukhoi Su-30MKK, a two-seat heavy fighter manufactured in China under Russian license. With respect to the fighters of the prolific Su-30 family, according to Chinese press, the J-16 is a far superior aircraft, as it has a reinforced structure, built with a higher percentage of composite materials than its Russian counterparts, RAM materials to lower its radar signature, domestically developed WS-10 engines and superior electronics, highlighting a powerful AESA radar of local design.

Designed and Manufactured by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, the first versions of the J-16 were introduced to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in 2013 and is currently the standard and most modern production variant of the “made in China” Flanker family.

Based on this powerful platform, the J-16D version was developed for the very specific mission of jamming, neutralizing and/or destroying the enemy’s anti-aircraft defense capabilities.

For this purpose, and like the US Navy’s F/A-18G Growler, the rear cockpit was converted to house the operator of the complex on-board electronic systems.

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Visible modifications to the D variant include the removal of the 30mm cannon and the forward infrared search and track (IRST) system, as well as the replacement of the wingtip missile launchers with electronic warfare pods.

Also like the Growler (and the EA-6B Prowler before it), the internal electronic jamming equipment is supplemented by external pods. In the case of the J-16D, what has been seen so far suggests that it is a family of electronic warfare pods acting on different types and bands of radar signals.

Carrying various types of pods, optimized for different frequency bands, would allow the J-16D to neutralize or degrade various specific types of enemy radars and communication systems simultanously, allowing a package of attacking aircraft to penetrate well-defended airspace in relative safety.

Finally, the existence of 2 missiles under the central pylons under the aircraft fuselage is noteworthy. These could be medium/long range air-to-air missiles of the PL-15 type, or a new anti-radar weapon (similar to the U.S. HARM) derived from it, which would allow the J-16D to destroy enemy radars for good.

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