China has developed and commissioned a fixed-wing, anti-submarine patrol aircraft similar to American P-3C Orion which will boost the Chinese navy's operational capability, a media report said on Tuesday.
The Chinese navy has got a four-engine Gaoxin-6, anti-submarine aircraft developed and manufactured by Aviation Industry Corp of China based on the Y-8 transport plane, state-run China Daily reported.
It has been delivered to the Beihai - or North Sea - Fleet of the People's Liberation Army navy, it said.
The aircraft can easily be distinguished from other Y-8 variants by its large sea-search radar, mounted below the cockpit, and the magnetic anomaly detector boom that looks like a metal tail.
It is China's first large aircraft specifically designed for anti-submarine warfare, making the country the sixth nation that has the development capability for such a sophisticated plane till now developed by United States, Russia, Japan, the UK and France, the daily said.
The most-deployed anti-submarine aircraft is the US' Lockheed P-3C Orion, which often appears in naval confrontations between the US and China.
Almost all US allies including Pakistan have P-3Cs as the backbone of their anti-submarine forces.
Earlier reports by Chinese media said the Gaoxin-6, with a crew of up to 10, is capable of flying 6,000 km or staying in the air for more than eight hours.
"Prior to the Gaoxin-6, the PLA navy only had a handful of the antiquated SH-5 maritime patrol amphibious aircraft and some ship-borne helicopters when it needed to deploy air platforms in anti-submarine operations," said Wang Ya'nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine.
"That situation had hugely confined the PLA navy's long-range combat capability because foreign navies' submarines are probably the most dangerous threat to its fleets," he said.
Therefore, the addition of the Gaoxin-6 will extensively enhance the navy's anti-submarine power while facilitating its maritime patrols and reconnaissance, he told the daily.
Yin Zhuo, director of the PLA navy's Expert Consultation Committee, said that the plane's magnetic anomaly detector, radar, sonar and torpedo are as good as those on the P-3C.
"In addition to anti-submarine tasks, the aircraft is able to perform anti-ship missions if it carries anti-ship missiles. It can also guide missiles launched from ships to strike targets," he said.
However, because it is designed based on the old Y-8 transport plane, the aircraft lags behind the US' most advanced Boeing P-8 Poseidon in terms of flight range and operational endurance, he said.
The Daily said China is making efforts to develop a long range bomber to build offensive capability for its air force.
"Though China is developing large airliners and heavy transport planes, we still lack expertise and experience in the design and manufacturing of large aircraft," Wang said.
A long range strategic bomber required a state-of-the-art structure and aerodynamic configuration as well as high performance turbofan engine and all of these major problems facing Chinese aviation industry, he added.