People's Liberation Army Navy - Air Force Branch
The PLA Navy's aviation forces are known as Naval Aviation. Naval Aviation is ranked third in protocol order among the PLAN's five branches. Besides aircraft and airfields, Naval Aviation has subordinate antiaircraft artillery (AAA), radar, communications, chemical defense, aircraft maintenance, and logistics units, as well as various academies.
The mission of the PLAN Air Force or PLANAF, is to provide air defense of ports and naval installations as well as air protection for fleet units. Other tasks that fall within its purview include ASuW, maritime reconnaissance, aerial minelaying, ASW operations, ground attack, and limited logistics support. The Naval Air Force would augment the PLAAF during hostilities (and vice versa).
An unidentified NAF Division is reported to have conducted a number of night training early 2003, conducting three night training exercises over water. This coupled with efforts to train ground crews in night operations allowed the division to more than double its night training time compared to previous years. This training was done to meet requirements of the new MTEP. The report goes on to state that the division created manuals for flight and ground crews on night operations, possibly indicating that the formulation of tactics and doctrine is evolving at the unit rather than national level. [Liberation Army Daily 8 Feb 2003 (PLA Activities Report February 2003)]The PLANAF operates a mixture of B-6 BADGER and B-5 BEAGLE bombers; Q-5 FANTAN, F-6 FARMER, and F-7 FISHBEDs. The PLANAF also fields SUPER FREOLON and DAUPHIN helicopters and small transports. Besides aircraft and airfields, Naval Aviation operates antiaircraft artillery (AAA), radar, communications, chemical defense, aircraft maintenance, and logistics equipment.
The new H-6G variant was first revealed at the 2002 Zhuhai Airshow in an AVIC I promotional video. It is capable of carrying 4 YJ-83K AShMs under its wings. By 2010 the H-6G had entered service with PLA Naval Aviation, replacing the earlier H-6Ds. Other sources less certainly had associated the H-6G nomenclature with a variant that would provide targeting data to ground-launched cruise missiles, analogous to the Tu-95RTs Bear D in role. Few details were available for this variant, other than reports that it lacks internal bomb bay and defensive armament. The targeting support variant was said to have been built in the 1990s, which is inconsistent with the pause in H-6 production between roughly 1990 and 2006.
In June 2009 it was reported that China had decided to revive production of the JH-7 strike aircraft at aircraft maker, Xian Aircraft Co., Xian, Shaanxi, China. The People's Liberation Army's Naval Air Force could produce an additional 50 to 70 aircraft, and the PLA Air Force may purchase some 100 planes. Some of the planes to be built will be the improved JH-7A variant. British and French engine manufacturers were said to be vying with each other to provide China with engine technology to support production of an additional 170 upgraded JH-7s.
Projecting future PLAN aviation assets is greatly complicated by uncertainties concerning China's emerging carrier aviation capabilities. The ex-Varyag's sistership Kuznetsov has a nominal airwing of 16 x Yak-141, 12 x Su-33 (Su-27K), 18 x KA-27PLO, 4 x KA-27LD32, and 2 x KA-27S. China does not plan to acquire the Yak-141, but is known to be working on an Su-33 derivative aircraft, possibly designated the J-15. Russia has previously sold Ka-28 helicopters [the Ka-27 export variant] to China, and as of 2008 was reported to be working on an upgrade in apparent expectation of sales to foreign customers, probably including China. In Chinese service, the Shi Lang airwing might consist of 24 J-15 aircraft, and 24 Ka-28 helicopters of various types. Since 2006 China and Russia had been in negotiations for the sale of 50 Su-33 Flanker-D fighters, but these negoatiations went nowhere. This probably indicates the number of J-15 aircraft that would be associated with the initial Shi Lang deployment, with about half embarked and the other half stationed ashore for training [and attrition]. Similarly, and embarked force of 24 Ka-28 helicopters might imply a total inventory of about 50 Ka-28 helicopter sassociated with the initial Shi Lang deployment.
Open sources have speculated about a possible Chinese designed aircraft carriers. Generally, it is assumed that the fighters would be the J-15 aircraft, and helicopters the Russian Ka-28. It might be speculated that each of the carriers might require about 50 J-15 fighters and 25 Ka-28 helicopters.
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