Meet China’s New Spy Plane (With An Austrian Body)

It's outfitted for electronic warfare

The CSA-003 is China’s newest Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) aircraft. Built by the China Electronic Technology Corporation’s Avionics division, the CSA-003 is a family of special mission aircraft that include maritime patrol and oil spill response.

Aerial Star CSA-004 China Diamond DA42

ELINT is a vital part of today’s military activities and future battlefield. In addition to collecting intelligence on potential enemies’ electronic activity, in a battlefield situation, it enables electronic and cyber attacks against enemy electronics through pinpointing their location and vulnerabilities.

Diamond DA42
The Diamond DA42 is a lightweight, 4-person aircraft capable of taking off from rough runways. Its toughness and small size makes it ideal for use as a light militarized support aircraft in COIN environments, as the CSA-003 is intended for. Diamond Executive Aviation

Built by CETCS off of an Austrian designed Diamond DA42 utility plane, the CSA-003 is a twin turboprop engined, 1.7 ton plane with heavy composite usage in its fuselage. The website states that the CSSA-003’s crew consists of 1-2 pilots and 1 sensor operator. The sensor payload, carried in a pod under the fuselage, consists of a modern, digital ELINT and signals processing suite that can detect, track and analyze enemy electronic activities, such as communications, weapons guidance and radars.

The CSA-003 also has the capability for installing an electro optical/infrared sensor turret, which can detect enemy regular and irregular forces like infantry under all weather conditions. The CSA-003 can count on satellite links and processing support from ground stations to act as part of a larger network of integrated electronic attack assets.

J-16D Electronic Warfare China Wild Weasel EW

The CSA-003 will join larger Chinese ELINT platforms, such as the medium Y-9 aircraft. Its parallel may more be smaller ELINT airplanes like the U.S. Army’s RC-12 Huron, which are also twin engined turboprop aircraft modified for gathering battlefield intelligence in counterinsurgency environments like Afghanistan and Iraq. The usage of a European airframe, subject to EU arms restrictions, suggests that the CSA-003 may initially be geared to paramilitary missions like border patrol.

Thanks to Andreas Rupprecht for pointing out the usage of the Diamond DA42.