Communist China Trials Y-7 Transport for Carrier Ops

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy recently held simulation training for transport aircraft to land on aircraft carriers, with military analysts saying on Wednesday that the move indicated that China is now developing fixed-wing transport aircraft and special mission aircraft including early warning aircraft for its third aircraft carrier, thanks to the latter’s electromagnetic catapults.

The PLA Naval Aviation University recently organized a series of training sessions under realistic combat scenarios with Y-7 transport aircraft at an airfield in North China, China National Radio reported on Wednesday.

Among a number of training courses, the pilot cadets carried out land-based simulation training for transport aircraft to land on aircraft carriers, according to the report.

This seems to be the first time the general public was made aware that the PLA Navy is preparing its transport aircraft pilot cadets for aircraft carrier operations, observers said.

China’s current two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and the Shandong, do not have fixed-wing transport aircraft because they use ski-jump ramps that limit the aircraft’s takeoff weight. But such aircraft will soon be able to operate on the country’s recently launched third aircraft carrier, the Fujian, which uses electromagnetic catapults, analysts said.

Fixed-wing transport aircraft are advantageous over transport helicopters on aircraft carriers in terms of range, speed and cargo capacity, and that is why China should have them, now that it has a catapult-equipped aircraft carrier, Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Using the Y-7 for simulated training is a good choice because the general characteristics like the size of the Y-7 are similar to a carrier-borne cargo plane, Fu said.

The US has the C-2 Greyhound cargo plane for its aircraft carriers, and developed E-2 Hawkeye early warning aircraft based on it.

China reportedly developed the KJ-600 early warning aircraft for its third carrier, and developing a cargo plane based on the KJ-600 would be easy, Fu said, noting that it could also spawn more special mission variants, including carrier-based fixed-wing anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

The Fujian is also expected to be equipped with an improved version of the J-15 heavy fighter jet compatible with catapult launches, an electronic warfare variant of the J-15, a next-generation stealth fighter jet reportedly to be called the J-35, and armed reconnaissance drones, according to media reports.

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