Spy pictures obtained by Defense News reveal that the Chinese military has moved anti-submarine aircraft into the heavily disputed South China Sea area, raising the possibility of a confrontation with American naval forces.
While other nations in the region possess submarines, none have the kind of submarine power that America has, meaning the move is almost certainly aimed squarely at the United States.
The photos were taken between May 10 and May 20 and showed four Shaanxi Y-8Q turboprop planes at Lingshui Air Base on the island of Hainan. The deployment of the torpedo-carrying planes is the latest major move of advanced aircraft to the base; photos taken in March revealed that the KJ-500 early warning aircraft had been moved there.
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However, the May photos mark the first time that the Shaanxi Y-8Q had been spotted there.
The Y-8Q has an advanced magnetic anomaly detector boom. According to Defense News, it allows the aircraft to “hunt submarines by detecting minute variations in the Earth’s magnetic field.” It also noted that “the Y-8Q also has a surface-search radar and an electro-optical turret for the maritime patrol mission, while a fuselage weapons bay located forward of the main landing gear will likely be used for carrying torpedoes.
“The deployments of the Y-8Q to Hainan soon after that of the KJ-500 is a further demonstration of China’s intention of beefing up the (People’s Liberation Army Navy) South Sea Fleet domain-awareness and sea-control capabilities with the latest equipment in its inventory,” Defense News reported. “Like the PLAN’s KJ-500s, unverified photos of the Y-8Qs have indicated that they are carrying serial numbers belonging to the Hainan-based 9th Naval Air Division, which lends further credence that these aircraft would be permanently stationed in Hainan instead of being assigned there on temporary rotations per previous practice.”
While it’s not cataclysmic news, there are significant reasons for the United States to be concerned… [CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE]