To monitor the communications of the many countries that border China, about 10 Tu-154M/D’s have been converted for work as SIGINT collection platforms with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).
The aircraft are flown in China United Airlines livery, which is the ‘commercial’ arm of the PLAAF and operate from Nanyuan near Bejiing. The PLAAF Tu-154M/D’s are distinguished by a large ‘canoe’ faring under the forward fuselage, which is believed to contain a synthetic aperture radar. The faring appears very similar to that carried by the Northrop/Grumman E-8 JSTARS, which given China's track record of 'acquiring' western technology by nefairous means, may be more than just a coincidence. It is believed the aircraft also carry various irems of ECM and ELINT equipment and are frequently seen around the border areas of China.