In the middle of February 2008, AVIC-I announced that its one strategic "Key Project" has been successfully and totally completed and the leaders of China and PLA, including President Hu, have send their warm congratulations to this Chinese largest Aviation Manufacture.
This piece of news appeared in the official paper media of Chinese Aviation Industry--"Chinese Aviation Daily", and then was transferred throughout Chinese main web news portals.
Of course, the "Key Project" is not clearly introduced in the opened news. But the salutation from Chinese Top leaders, 4 members of CPC central committee including President Hu Jintao, indicates that the so-called "Key Project" is an strategic aerial weapon system and has great value to PLA. Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Cao Gangchuan even expressed thanks for keeping the honor and dignity of China.
The answer is only one, "Key Project" is PLA C4ISR central role--KJ-2000 AWACS and the success shows that 4 KJ-2000s manufactured by AVIC-I have entered service in PLA Air Force in 2008.
In 2000, China once planned to purchase Israel Phalcon AWACS, but later the deal was terminated by United States. China always considered it as a great shame and initiated its own AWACS project.
Except the congratulations, some interesting truths can be investigated from the news.
In his written felicitate letter, Guo Boxiong, the deputy Chairman of CPC central military Committee, confirm the great achievements of AVIC-I but urged the pushes of later testing for technological maturity. Obviously, the words from General Guo show that PLA's AWACS still has problems although they have entered PLA.
Cao Gangchuan also hoped that related manufactures shall especially focus the quality of system and simultaneously pursue the latest development in aerial early warning systems. His words also proved that the performance of KJ-2000 is not stable because of lots of new technologies involved.
Hong Kong Medias, like Phoenix TV and China Review Agency, quoted this news and added some new contents. It declared that KJ-2000 can detect F-22 in range of 200KM. AVIC-I has no comments on this performance describe but it is generally believed as a sensationalized propaganda.
Although PLA's KJ-2000 has unclear operational capacity and too limited number to be deployed in highly-dangerous area, the extinguished growth of PLA Air Force is need to be focused.
According to a imperfect statistics, now PLA has owned over 450 third generation fighters, including 11 Su-27/J-11/Su-30mkk/Su-30mk2 regiments (270+ fighters, with 24 fighters each regiment), 4 J-10 regiments (96+ J-10) and 4 JH-7/JH-7A regiments(96+ JH-7/A). With the support of KJ-2000 and other systems, PLA is going to grasp the air superiority over all Asian countries.