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Global Times

PLA holds Y-20 aircraft transport mission, landing drills in South China Sea

Global Times

By Liu Xuanzun and Guo Yuandan Published: Sep 21, 2021 06:26 PM

In two recent, separate moves in the South China Sea, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) dispatched Y-20 large transport aircraft to reefs for troop transport missions, and conducted amphibious landing drills under complex conditions, showing the PLA's capabilities in safeguarding peace and stability in the region, analysts said on Tuesday.

Carrying veterans who were garrisoned at islands and reefs in the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea, several new-type transport aircraft of the PLA Air Force took off from airfields on Yongshu Reef, Zhubi Reef and Meiji Reef on Thursday and returned to the Chinese mainland, the PLA South Sea Fleet revealed in a story published in its social media account on Saturday.

Previously, the Nansha garrison used ships to transport veterans back to the mainland, because aircraft were only in limited use, for purposes like the transport of vital supplies or emergencies, the South Sea Fleet said, noting that this began to change last year.

A photo released with the story showed that at least oneY-20 large transport aircraft was used.

While overseas media reported earlier this year that a Y-20 cargo plane was spotted landing on Yongshu Reef in December last year, this was the first time the PLA confirmed that this type of aircraft had been operating on islands and reefs in the South China Sea.

This means that the PLA airfields in the South China Sea can host large transport aircraft, which can transport a relatively large number of troops and numerous pieces of equipment between the islands and reefs and the mainland very fast, a Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Tuesday.

It showed that the PLA can reinforce South China Sea islands and reefs in rapid response missions, the expert said, noting that it also indicates that the PLA Air Force has more Y-20s in active service that are being used in more types of missions.

In early June, Malaysia's air force said it detected 16 Chinese Air Force planes comprising Il-76 and Y-20 transport aircraft flying in the South China Sea. Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, soon confirmed that the Chinese Air Force had held a routine training operation in southern Nansha in the South China Sea.

In another activity, the PLA Southern Theater Command Navy organized amphibious landing drills in the South China Sea in early hours, as three landing ships practiced penetrating hostile coastal defenses and landing on beaches, while facing simulated submarine attacks and air strikes, the PLA Southern Theater Command said on Sunday in a public release.

On September 8, a US guided missile destroyer trespassed into areas adjacent to the Meiji Reef in the South China Sea without China's permission, and the naval and aerial forces of the PLA Southern Theater Command conducted whole-process tracking and monitoring of the US ship and warned it off, said a PLA Southern Theater Command spokesperson in a written statement at the time.

The latest activities have displayed the PLA's increasing combat readiness and capabilities in the South China Sea, and showed that the PLA is fully capable of and determined to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as peace and stability in the region, analysts said.

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