A Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) reportedly conducted a maritime patrol mission near the island of Taiwan on Tuesday, two months since this type of aircraft last appeared in the region, amid speculation that an aircraft of this type had an accident in March.
The alleged accident has not been confirmed, but in any case, the Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft is now well prepared to carry out missions, at a time when external forces have been provocatively sending warships and submarines to the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, analysts said on Wednesday.
One PLA Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft entered Taiwan’s self-proclaimed southwest air defense identification zone on Tuesday, flying between the island of Taiwan and the Taiwan-administered Dongsha Islands in the South China Sea, according to a press release by Taiwan’s defense authority on the day.
This seems to be the first time a Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft has been reported by the island’s defense authority since March 1, observers said. The PLA instead deployed vessel-based anti-submarine warfare helicopters like the Z-9 and the Ka-28 over the past two months, according to the island’s defense authority.
Citing Taiwan’s intelligence agency, overseas media claimed in March that a Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft had an accident in the South China Sea in that month, leading some analysts to speculate that the PLA suspended flights of this type of aircraft to conduct investigations and clear up potential problems.
The PLA has not made any comment on the speculation over the alleged accident.
An aviation regiment attached to the PLA Southern Theater Command Navy organized flight training for the Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft on April 26, the PLA Daily reported on Saturday. This is another sign that the aircraft is indeed active, observers said.
At a time when external forces have been frequently sending spy planes to conduct close-in reconnaissance near the Chinese mainland, dispatching warships to provocatively sail through the Taiwan Straits, and deploying submarines to the South China Sea, it is necessary for the PLA to enhance its capabilities and preparedness to monitor and patrol relevant regions with not only anti-submarine warfare helicopters, but also fixed-wing aircraft, as the latter can cover a larger area in a shorter time, Fu Qianshao, a Chinese mainland military aviation expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
The PLA is commissioning more Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, and patrols and drills by this type of aircraft have become routine, Fu said. The expert expected more of them to appear near the island of Taiwan in the future.