People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force

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People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force
People's Liberation Army Navy Jack and Ensign
Flag of the People's Liberation Army Navy
Active 1955–present
Country China
Size 26,000 personnel (2012)
650 aircraft
Part of People's Liberation Army Navy

The People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF) (simplified Chinese: 中国人民解放军海军航空兵; traditional Chinese: 中國人民解放軍海軍航空兵; pinyin: Zhōngguó Rénmǐn Jiěfàng Jūn Hǎijūn Hángkōngbīng) is the naval aviation branch of the People's Liberation Army Navy.


Historically, the PLANAF's main role has been to provide the navy's warships with air defense coverage. Part of the coastal defense doctrine was to have naval aircraft protecting the ships, hence the reason why many PLA ships of the 1960s–70s lacked long range anti-aircraft missiles or artillery. During the Sino-Vietnamese War, the PLANAF carried out many successful bombing and airstrike missions against Vietnamese territories, such as in the Spratly Islands. The 1960s saw a series of air combat sorties flown against Taiwanese intruders. PLANAF pilots have been credited with many major victories over the Taiwanese in these small incidents[citation needed]. Historical aircraft operated by the PLANAF include the J-5, the J-6, and H-5. These aircraft have been retired by the late 1990s.

Today, the PLANAF has a strength of around 25,000 personnel and 450 aircraft. It operates similar aircraft to the People's Liberation Army Air Force, including fighters, bombers, strike aircraft, tankers, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, maritime patrol, seaplane, transport, training and helicopter types. The PLANAF has traditionally received older aircraft than the PLAAF and has taken less ambitious steps towards mass modernization. Advancements in new technologies, weaponry and aircraft acquisition were made after 2000. The modern day PLANAF is capable of performing a number of roles, and is quite numerically and technologically adept in anti-ship and air defense operations.


Primary Mission

Secondary Mission


Aircraft Origin Role Version Number[1] Comment
Fighter aircraft
Shenyang J-15  China Multirole Fighter J-15
16 Carrier capable 4.5th generation aircraft for use aboard the PLAN aircraft carrier 16 Liaoning.
Shenyang J-11BH  China Air Superiority Fighter J-11BH
48[1] More on order
Chengdu J-10AH  China Multirole Fighter J-10AH
Sukhoi Su-30MKK  Russia Multirole Fighter Su-30MK2 24[1]
Shenyang J-8  China Interceptor J-8F 24[1]
Chengdu J-7  China Interceptor J-7E 24[1]
Strike aircraft
Xian JH-7  China Strike Aircraft JH-7
Bomber aircraft
Xian H-6  China Strategic Bomber H-6G 30[1]
Transport aircraft
Shaanxi Y-8  China Tactical Transport Y-8 4[1]
Xi'an Y-7  China Tactical Transport Y-7
Shijiazhuang Y-5  China Utility Transport Y-5 50[1] Based on the Antonov An-2.
Yakovlev Yak-42  Russia VIP Transport Yak-42 2[1]
Special-mission aircraft
Shaanxi Y-8Q  China ASW Y-8Q 10[1]>7[1]
Shaanxi Y-8J  China Airborne Early Warning & Control Y-8J 10[1]
Shaanxi Y-8W  China Airborne Early Warning & Control Y-8W 10[1]
Shaanxi Y-8JB  China ELINT Y-8J 10[1]
Shaanxi Y-8X  China Patrol Y-8JB/X 10[1]
Harbin SH-5  China Maritime Patrol SH-5 3[1]
Ilyushin Il-28  Soviet Union Maritime Patrol HZ-5 7[1]
Xian H-6  China Aerial Refueling H-6DU 3[1]
Trainer aircraft
Guizhou JL-9  China Trainer Aircraft JL-9
12+[1] More on order to replace older types.
Hongdu JL-8  China Trainer Aircraft JL-8 12[1]
Nanchang CJ-6  China Trainer Aircraft CJ-6 38[1]
Xian Y-7  China Trainer Aircraft HY-7 21[1]
Chengdu J-7  China Trainer Aircraft JJ-7 4[1]
Shenyang J-6  China Trainer Aircraft JJ-6 14[1]
Ilyushin Il-28  Soviet Union Trainer Aircraft HJ-5 5[1]
Changhe Z-18  China Anti-submarine Warfare / Anti-ship / Transport / AEW Z-18
Harbin Z-9  China Anti-submarine Warfare / Transport / Anti-ship Z-9C
Changhe Z-8/SA321  China Anti-submarine Warfare
Airborne Early Warning
Search & Rescue
Transport Helicopter
Transport Helicopter
Kamov Ka-31  Russia Airborne Early Warning KA-31 9[1]
Kamov Ka-28  Russia Anti-submarine Warfare Ka-28 19[1]
Mil Mi-8  Soviet Union Transport Helicopter Mi-8 8[1]
List of unmanned aerial vehicles of the People's Republic of China

Future of the People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force[edit]

The future of the PLANAF is unclear. However, it is certain that as the navy receives more attention, the PLANAF will receive newer aircraft and much more funding, as its significant role in projecting power over the sea is becoming evermore realized. A new transport helicopter, the Z-15, may enter naval service by 2015 as a dedicated medium sized multi-role shipborne helicopter. This would replace the Z-9C and complement the Ka-28 Helix. In early 2006, an article reported a deal between China and Russia, which sees the PLANAF's acquisition of 40 Ka-29 assault transports, 20+ Ka-31 AEW helicopters (mounted with search radar) and up to 20 Be-200 jet amphibians. If this purchase goes ahead, this would represent a major step forward for the PLANAF in terms of capabilities. The Ka-29 may form the first dedicated transport for the marine corps, the Ka-31's powerful radar can serve in over-the-horizon target acquisitions and early warning for Chinese surface ships, and the Be-200 jet amphibian would replace the SH-5 in maritime patrol duties and ASW.

In addition the PLANAF would undergo significant change once China's first aircraft carrier is fully operational. Near the end of October 2006, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper revealed that Russian state-run weapon exporter Rosoboronexport was completing negotiations with China to deliver up to 48 Sukhoi Su-33 (NATO codename: Flanker-D) carrier-capable fighter aircraft in a purchase deal reportedly worth $2.5 billion. The Su-33 is a variant of Sukhoi’s Su-27 Flanker with forward canards, foldings wings, an arrester hook, a reinforced structure, and other modifications that help it deal with carrier operations and landings.

As of 2011, SAC is developing its own naval jet, called Shenyang J-15, which first flew in 2009. The Shenyang J-31 may be a future carrier based stealth fighter in the same role as the F-35C.

On June 4, 2009, UPI reported that Eastern European sources had reported that preparations had been completed to construct an Aircraft Carrier at Changxing Island Shipyard.[2] China has also started constructing its own Naval Aviation Testing and Training Complex (NITKA) near Xingcheng.

The 67,500 ton ex-Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag (Admiral Kuznetsov class), which was only 70% completed and floating in Ukraine, was purchased and underwent a long refit. Varyag was stripped of any military equipment as well as her propulsion before she was put up for sale. News reports stated that she was being refitted to be returned to operational status.[3] Sea trials of the carrier started in late 2011, and it was commissioned on September 25, 2012, as the Liaoning.

In 2013, deputy chief of staff Song Xue announced that a second larger and more capable aircraft carrier would be domestically produced.[4]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao International Institute for Strategic Studies: The Military Balance 2014, p.235
  2. ^ "China ready to build its first aircraft carrier". 2009-06-04. Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  3. ^ Jon Rosamond, 'China completes joint exercise with UK aircraft carrier,' Jane's Navy International, November 2007, p.6
  4. ^ Gayathri, Amrutha (24 April 2013). "China To Build Second, Larger Aircraft Carrier To Bolster Military Hardware, Says State Media". IB Times. IBT Media Inc. Retrieved 1 May 2013. 

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