PLA Legacy Fighters and Attackers
PLA Transport and Tanker Aircraft
PLA Special Role Aircraft
PLA Training Aircraft
PLA Attack Helicopters
PLA Utility Helicopters
PLA Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
As the PLAAF transforms from a short-range, defence-oriented force with limited capabilities into a modern, multirole force capable of projecting air power beyond China’s borders, its aircraft fleet has been upgraded over the past two decades. The ageing Cold War-era Soviet combat aircraft designed primarily for interception roles have been gradually withdrawn from the service and replaced by the modern 4th-generation multirole fighters including the Russian Sukhoi Su-27/30 series and the indigenous J-10 and J-11/15/16 series, all of which are capable of carrying ‘beyond visual range’ AAMs and a variety of precision guided munitions for ground strike missions. The more advanced 4++ generation Su-35 and 5th-generation J-20 are also beginning to join the service.
The long-range power projection capabilities have been enhanced with the introduction of the H-6K strategic bomber, Y-20 transport aircraft, and Il-78 tanker, as well as a wide range of ‘force multipliers’ including the AEW&C, C3I, and electronic warfare platforms. The Chinese aviation industry is currently developing a twin-engined, narrow-body airliner C919 for the commercial market, but it can also be developed into a long-range aerial platform for special roles aircraft, following the example of the Boeing 737. In addition, a great number of Chinese companies are now involved in the design and development of the various types of unmanned aerial vehicles, and have achieved some degree of success in the domestic and international markets.