Currently the PLA operates two dedicated aerial refuelling tanker aircraft: the Xian HY-6 and the Ukrainian IL-78. The HY-6 represents the very first steps taken by China in developing the aerial refuelling capability for long-range power projection beyond its own territories. The acquisition of three ex-Ukrainian Air Force IL-78 tanker aircraft in 2014 represents another significant boost in the PLA’s ability to extend its operations in the East China Sea and South China Sea regions.
The Shenyang J-8 is a single-seat, twin-engine interceptor fighter that first entered development in 1965, though the aircraft did not enter operational service until the early 1980s. Over the years, the aircraft continued to evolve with new sensors and weapons added to improve its capabilities. This process continued until the late 2000s, when it was finally succeeded by a new generation of fighter aircraft such as the J-10 and J-11.
The Chengdu J-20 is China’s first attempt to produce a 5th-generation stealth fighter that can match the likes of the U.S. Boeing F-22A Raptor and Russian Sukhoi PAK FA/T-50. The aircraft is currently undergoing operational trial and evaluation, and can enter operational service as early as 2017.
Cai Hong-4 (CH-4) is a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system designed and built by China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA, also known as the 11th Academy) of the China Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation (CASC) consortium.
Internet-sourced photo shows that a new type of electronic intelligence (ELINT) aircraft has entered service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
The third prototype of the Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter made its maiden flight successfully on Saturday 1st March. According to the witness report on Chinese social media, the J-20 prototype “2011” took the sky at about 12:00 local time, escorted by a Chengdu J-10S two-seater fighter. The entire flight lasted about 30 minutes before the aircraft landed safely.
The acquisition of the Russian Sukhoi Flanker series fighter aircraft has been an important part of China’s effort to modernise its air power. Between 1992 and 2004, China received a total of 176 examples of the Flanker series fighter in four variants: Su-27SK (Flanker-B), Su-27UBK (Flanker-C), Su-30MKK (Flanker-G) and Su-30MKK2 (Flanker-G). Another 100 examples of the Su-27SK have been built by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) under license as the J-11.
The Y-9 (Yun-9) is a medium-sized, medium-range turboprop multi-purpose transport aircraft designed and manufactured by Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation. Derived from the Y-8 (An-12 Cub) transport aircraft, the Y-9 features improved engines and modern avionics including a ‘glass’ cockpit, and is believed to be comparable to the U.S. Lockheed Martin C-130J in general performance.
As part of its modernisation restructuring programme, from early 2012 the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) began to convert its air divisions into more combined and flexible brigade-sized units, similar to the air wings in the USAF. This is possibly the most significant organisational change in the history of the PLAAF, with the aim to achieve a more ‘flat’ administrative and command and control structure.
Chinese social media revealed yet another new fighter aircraft development programme currently undergoing flight test. The latest revelation is a Shenyang (SAC)-produced copycat of the Russian Sukhoi Su-30MKK (NATO code name: Flanker-G) two-seater multirole fighter, reportedly designated by the PLAAF as the J-16.