Taiwan’s armed forces should closely monitor China’s development of a new tanker aircraft, as it would significantly boost the Chinese air force’s capability to carry out long-range raids, a military expert said on Wednesday.
Ou Si-fu (歐錫富), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said in an online article that China is developing a tanker variant of its Y-20 military transport aircraft, known as the Y-20U.
The Y-20 has a maximum take-off weight of 220 tonnes and the tanker variant is expected to carry up to 60 tonnes of fuel, more than three times the maximum capacity of the H-6U, which China uses for air-to-air refueling, Ou said.
Foreign media have reported that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has about 24 Xian H-6Us, as well as three Il-78 refueling aircraft obtained from Ukraine.
Ou said the Y-20U would also be equipped with three refueling hoses, compared with two on the H-6U.
The new tanker aircraft would significantly boost the PLA Air Force’s long-range raid capability and substantially extend the combat radius of its aircraft, he said.
One round of aerial refueling could widen the combat radius of China’s H-6N bombers by 25 to 30 percent, J-8 and J-10 fighters by 30 to 40 percent, and Y-9 transport planes by 100 percent, he added.
Taiwan’s military should pay close attention to the development of the new tanker aircraft and how its deployment could affect the nation’s self-defense, Ou said.
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