A Taiwanese military expert has warned about the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force’s development of a new refueling tanker aircraft. The plane will allow the air force to take off with more bombs and less fuel to carry out long-range raids.
In a post on the Taiwanese think tank Institute for National Defense and Security Research website, research fellow Ou Si-fu claimed that China is accelerating research and development on the Yun-you-20 (YY-20/Y-20U) and a refueling tanker variant, which could expand the operational range of China’s air and sea forces.
“Combat radius is an important indicator for measuring fighters. The biggest function of the tanker is that it can greatly increase the ‘warplane’s range’ and ‘combat radius.’ It is estimated that for one aerial refueling, the PLA Air Force’s H- 6N bomber’s combat radius can increase by 25%-30%, the J- 8 and J- 10 fighter jets can increase by 30%-40%, and the Y-9 transport aircraft’s range can be doubled,” Ou said, according to a translation of the article.
Ou also said that compared to the Hongyou-6, the YY-20 can refuel in a medium-threat area closer to the theater of operations, which could strengthen the Chinese air force’s frontline support for combat aircraft.
The YY-20 will also improve the air force’s level of control automation and protection intelligence, provide better situational awareness, electromagnetic protection, and electronic countermeasures, Ou said.
Keeping Up With Russia, US
The YY-20 reportedly made its maiden flight in March of 2019 in an attempt to keep up with the US and Russia in its development of large aerial tankers.
The development of the PLA’s air technology is viewed as a threat to Taiwan’s national security, which has prompted the country to strengthen its defenses. In January, Taiwan reported that Chinese jets made 380 Incursions into Taiwan’s defense zone in 2020, their highest since the mid-1990s.
Last month, Taiwan sought to acquire long-range cruise missiles from the US to strengthen the island’s ability to retaliate in the event of war with China. Taiwan has also conducted tests on its Sky Bow III, which is designed to engage medium and long-range aerial threats such as aircraft and enemy missiles.