This Plane Is No Stealth Fighter (But China's Military Needs It Badly)
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China has brought a group of honor guard members to Moscow as part of a conscious support by participating in Russia's seventy-fifth Soviet victory parade in World War II, a move that signals ongoing cooperation or even partnership between the two countries. At the same time, the Chinese move appears to be a clear attempt to demonstrate the range and scope of its Y-20 cargo aircraft, which Chinese media reports will soon expand to a tanker tanker variant.
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A report in the Global Times states that a large Chinese Y-20 transport plane carried more than a hundred Chinese soldiers to "demonstrate the aircraft's technical capabilities." . . and show the high level military cooperation between China and Russia. "
At the invitation of the Russians, the Chinese Guard of Honor will participate in the parade for Russian Victory Day on Moscow's Red Square on June 24.
The report also cited Chinese analysts who specifically spoke about the growing role of its Y-20 aircraft, some of which are likely to be converted into tankers. The Chinese could also build a new Y-20 with a tanker variant. Such a development would bring significant tactical advantages as it could more than double the attack range of its many fighters, including the new fifty-generation J-20 and J-31 aircraft. While many of the Chinese fighters are within range to attack Taiwan with a single mission, an extended combat radius would allow fighter jets looking for targets in the sky above Taiwan to have a much longer “dwell time”. In addition, greater energy projection would increase the range of the growing fleet of aircraft carriers and improve the ability to keep vulnerable areas at greater distances.
In addition, an expanded range of air combat could be of equal or greater importance to China, making it easier to attack, monitor, or simply patrol extensive areas of the South China Sea, or simply patrol or spend much more time between places to target explore or prove territorial claims. Technically, the U.S. Air Force's KC-46 tanker is certainly different from the C-130, but it wouldn't be that difficult to convert a large Y-20 into a tanker configuration.
A multi-functional Y-20 would make a big difference in terms of amphibious attacks. The large cargo planes could not only deliver supplies, ground troops, or weapons to an amphibious landing site if a bridgehead were secured, but it could also help fighter jets to help an amphibious assault achieve air superiority. China is rapidly expanding its amphibious attack capacity with new ships and drones. Therefore, an additional, ongoing, fifth-generation air force to support amphibious assault could add a whole new dimension to Chinese threats to Taiwan and other areas. This also raises the key question of whether the J-31, if launched from air carriers, could challenge the US F-35B fighter aircraft.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for national interests. Osborn previously worked at the Pentagon as a highly qualified expert in the army's deputy secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist on national television channels. He has been a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel and The History Channel. He also has a master's degree in comparative literature from Columbia University.
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