China has developed and commissioned a fixed-wing, anti-submarine patrol aircraft, which will significantly boost the Chinese navy’s operational capability, experts said.
The four-engine Gaoxin-6, which was developed and manufactured by Aviation Industry Corp of China based on the Y-8 transport plane, has been delivered to the Beihai – or North Sea – Fleet of the People’s Liberation Army navy, about three years after the type was first revealed in late 2011, according to a recent report in IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, a United Kingdom-based weapon technology publication.
The aircraft can easily be distinguished from other Y-8 variants by its large sea-search radar, mounted below the cockpit, and the magnetic anomaly detector boom that looks like a metal tail.
It is China’s first large aircraft specifically designed for anti-submarine warfare, making the country the sixth nation that has the development capability for such a sophisticated plane. The others are the United States, Russia, Japan, the UK and France.
The most-deployed anti-submarine aircraft is the US’ Lockheed P-3C Orion, which often appears in naval confrontations between the US and China. Almost all US allies have P-3Cs as the backbone of their anti-submarine forces.
Earlier reports by Chinese media said the Gaoxin-6, with a crew of up to 10, is capable of flying 6,000 kilometers or staying in the air for more than eight hours.
“Prior to the Gaoxin-6, the PLA navy only had a handful of the antiquated SH-5 maritime patrol amphibious aircraft and some ship-borne helicopters when it needed to deploy air platforms in anti-submarine operations,” Wang Ya’nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told China Daily.