China's new "first line of defense" has a range of hundreds of kilometers and is reportedly immune to radar-seeking missiles.
China has a new maritime early warning radar system which can allegedly detect stealth aircraft at long distances, and is also invisible to "radar killer" missiles. The claims were reported by Chinese site Global News, citing an interview with the system's creator, 83-year-old radar expert Liu Yongtan, in the latest issue of Naval and Merchant Ships magazine.
According to Yongtan, the new radar offers "over the horizon" range using "high frequency electromagnetic waves with long wavelengths and wide beams". These beams travel across the ocean surface and are not hampered by weather conditions. For his work, Yongtan and defense engineer Qian Qihu received the prestigious State Preeminent Science and Technology Award in Beijing last year.
The announcement has caused some concern that it could endanger US fighters such as Lockheed Martin's F-35C Lightning II if deployed militarily in the region. However, others point out that the technology behind the new radar is not new, and while it boasts impressive range and detection thanks to its long wave nature, it is limited in other ways. Such radar arrays are large, and easily located, meaning that GPS strikes could be used to take it out of action even if radar-seeking missiles are unable to obtain a lock. Additionally, while it can detect stealth objects at range, it cannot identify them nor can it target them precisely enough to launch counter measures accurately.
Speaking to Business Insider, Justin Bronk of the Royal United Services Institute explained: "China might be better informed about where American stealth fighters are operating in the battle space, but still unable to use those radar systems to cue in missiles to actually kill them". Crucially, what the system can do is alert China to stealh incursions into its airspace, giving more time to prepare a response and offering more focussed radar systems a smaller area to scan, enabling fighters to be targetted that way.
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