PLA’s aerial refuelling tanker fleet

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.