China is a major arms exporter, but its image in the international weapons market has long been linked to old, second-tier products sold at relatively low prices.
Domestic defense technology companies have been sparing no effort over the past several years to improve their reputation by promoting modern, advanced products featuring the latest technology. One recent effort is an airborne early-warning and control aircraft described by its designer as "world-class and best of its kind".
Hu Mingchun, head of the Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology in Jiangsu province, said there are only a handful of nations including China, the United States and Israel that can design, build and export such cutting-edge hardware as early-warning planes. And he said the KLC-7 Silk Road Eye developed by his institute is a generation ahead of its rivals in the global market.
According to Hu, the KLC-7 integrates a mechanical scanning system with active electronically scanned arrays - two popular radar detection methods - and features the latest digital technology and processing capacity, which is much more robust than previous models. With state-of-the-art electronics, the system boasts better anti-jamming functions, a longer detection range and stronger target-tracking ability and optimized algorithms, he said.
"It was designed based on our rich experience and expertise," Hu said. "All of its core technologies and components were developed on our own. The product represents the latest technologies and is very competitive in the international market."
Several nations have expressed strong interest in the KLC-7 and want to open talks with the institute, he said.
"For our users, the KLC-7 Silk Road Eye is the best solution to their needs because it fits perfectly in sophisticated and rapidly changing combat situations and can detect and track targets from afar," Hu said. "The farther you can see in combat, the higher the chance that you will win. Therefore, anyone who uses the Silk Road Eye will be able to extensively magnify the situational awareness and operational capabilities of military forces."
The electronics institute in Nanjing, which is part of State-owned defense giant China Electronics Technology Group Corp, is the country's top developer of military surveillance radar. Its products have been sold to more than 20 nations in Africa and Asia, it said.
Reports have said it designed and manufactured the radars mounted on ZDK-03 early-warning aircraft that China exported to Pakistan.
In a picture released by China Electronics Technology Group Corp, the Silk Road Eye appears similar to the ZDK-03, which means it is also mounted on the Y-9 turboprop transport plane built by Aviation Industry Corp of China.