Antonov AN-12 Cub-B / Shannxi

AN-12 Cub-B

Like the Lockheed C-130, this four-engined military transport aircraft has been the basis for a wide range of special variants, mainly devoted to SIGINT, COMINT and ECM activity. Cub-A aircraft were sometimes equipped with large SLAR to the port side of the front fuselage. Cub-B aircraft were usually dedicated for SIGINT/COMINT operations.

Equipped with various aerials and radomes under fuselage, versions of these aircraft were flown in civil and military markings by the Soviet Union, various Warsaw Pact countries and certain Arab states, notably Syria.

The Russian Air Force no longer operates the An-12 in the SIGINT role. However, China has license-built a large number of these aircraft as the Shaanxi Y-8. Around eight Y-8X aircraft, equipped with western navigational avionics, are used by the PLN Naval Aviation for essentially maritime patrol duties. However, the aircraft also carry optical and IR camera and are used to monitor activity around China's land and sea borders.

Shaanxi Y8

It is understood that China has also adapted two Y-8J aircraft into an interim AEW fit. Exactly what equipment the aircraft carry is still open to debate. Some believe that they carry a modified RACAL Searchwater/Skymaster surveillance radar, eight sets of which were sold to China in 1996 on the understanding they would equip the SH-5 ASW flying boat. On the other hand some speculate that one Y-8J is equipped with a GEC-Marconi Argus 2000 radar, originally intended for an undelivered Il-76, and is being evaluated as a potential replacement for the Israeli Phalcon AEW system after its sale to China was blocked by the USA.

It has also been reported that China is developing another AWACS varient of the Y-8 using an electronically scanned phased array radar mounted in a fairing above the fuselage, similar to the SAAB 340 AEW&C Argus - given China's past record on 'cloning' stolen western technology, perhaps SAAB might like to check if any of their files have gone missing!