A Y-20 aircraft affiliated with a regiment attached to the PLA Central Theater Command Air Force releases flares during a training exercise. Photo: Zhang Meng
China’s next-generation aerial tanker YU-20 has begun joining combat readiness training as the aircraft is expected to boost the long-range operational capabilities of other warplanes, a spokesperson said. of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force of China. , who also vowed to safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity with warplane sorties around the island of Taiwan.
Senior Colonel Shen Jinke made the remarks at a press conference in Beijing on Sunday, People’s Daily and China Central Television reported.
The YU-20 is a tanker variant spawned from the Chinese-developed Y-20 transport aircraft, analysts said.
The YU-20 aerial refueling tanker recently carried out aerial refueling exercises at sea with the J-16 fighter jet, improving the aircraft’s level of realistic combat training, Shen said.
As China’s next-generation tanker aircraft, the YU-20 can effectively improve the air force’s long-term operational activities, while maintaining the same functionality as the Y-20 transport aircraft in combat missions. air transport, Shen said.
Although this is the first official introduction of the YU-20 by the PLA, the existence of the aerial tanker is widely known to the general public due to its missions around the island of Taiwan.
On November 28, 2021, a total of 27 PLA fighter jets, including a YU-20 tanker plane, entered the self-declared air defense identification zone in the southwest of the island of Taiwan, said. the island’s defense authorities in a press release at the time.
It is the first time that a YU-20 aerial refueling aircraft has been spotted in a PLA flyover near the island of Taiwan, island media reported. Reports indicate that the YU-20 refueling aircraft apparently performed aerial refueling procedures with two J-16s.
Shen said at Sunday’s press conference that the encirclement flights of the PLA Air Force’s multiple types of fighter jets around the island of Taiwan have enhanced the capabilities of the PLA Air Force. PLA to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The PLA air force has firm will, full confidence and sufficient capability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, Shen said.
By receiving aerial refueling, fighter jets can have extended range and uptime, making the aerial refueler a power amplifier in modern warfare, a Beijing-based military expert told the Global Times on Sunday who requested anonymity.
This will allow the PLA aircraft to operate widely on the eastern side of Taiwan Island as well, giving Taiwanese secessionists no opportunity to hide while intercepting foreign forces that may wish to interfere, the statement said. expert.
At the press conference, Shen also announced that the PLA Air Force will hold an open house and aircraft exhibition from August 26 to 30 in Changchun, Jilin Province (northeast of China). China).
The remains of the Chinese People’s Volunteers (CPV) martyrs who sacrificed their lives in the war to resist U.S. aggression and help Korea (1950-53) will return to China on September 16 from South Korea. The PLA air force had previously sent Y-20s to repatriate the remains and had J-11 fighter jets to escort them, Shen said.
This escort unit has now switched to J-20 stealth fighter jets, Shen said.