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China’s YU-20 tanker aircraft practice refuelling drills

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The YU-20 tanker aircraft of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force hosted aerial refueling exercises for two J-20 stealth fighter jets, displaying the YU-20’s high flexibility and the increasing number of J-20s in active service.

This is the PLA Air Force’s special way of celebrating the upcoming National Day on Saturday, reads a press release by the PLA Air Force posted on social media platforms.

Previously, the PLA Air Force published a video showing a YU-20 tanker aircraft hosting aerial refueling exercises for two J-16 fighter jets, and another video showing YU-20 hosting aerial refueling exercises for a J-16 and a J-20.

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The YU-20 can conduct aerial refueling for warplanes including the J-20, the J-16, and the J-10C, and such aerial refueling exercises have been carried out multiple times in high-altitude plateau regions and above the sea, enhancing the PLA Air Force’s long-range maneuvering capabilities, Senior Colonel Shen Jinke, a spokesperson for the PLA Air Force, said at a press conference on Tuesday.

So far, China is believed to have about four Y-20U tankers. Prior to the advent of the Y-20U, PLAAF tanking capabilities were limited to two dozen elderly Harbin H-6Us powered by obsolete WP-8 turbojets, and a trio of Ilyushin Il-78s.

The Y-20 has revolutionized China’s aerial heavy lift capabilities, ending reliance on Soviet Il-76 variants acquired from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, and represents the largest military transport in production anywhere in the world today.

The YU-20 is effectively enhancing the Chinese air force’s long-range operational activities while maintaining the same functionality as the Y-20 transport aircraft in airlift missions. It has demonstrated the domestic capabilities to develop such jets which are technically more mature, becoming a backbone for the PLA Air Force’s strategic reforms.

Source: Global Times

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