PLA Naval Aviation
PLA Naval Aviation

PLA Naval Aviation

The People’s Liberation Army Naval Aviation (PLA Naval Aviation, PLA Naval Air Force) is the naval aviation branch of the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Historically, the PLA Naval Aviation’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 PLA Naval Aviation 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. Historical aircraft operated by the PLA Naval Aviation include the J-5, the J-6, and H-5. These aircraft have been retired by the late 1990s.

PLA Naval Aviation Xian JH-7A Fighter Bomber
PLA Naval Aviation Xian JH-7A Fighter Bomber

Today, the PLA Naval Aviation has a strength of around 26,000 personnel and 690+ 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 PLA Naval Aviation 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 PLA Naval Aviation is capable of performing a number of roles, and is quite numerically and technologically adept in anti-ship and air defense operations.
PLA Naval Aviation Harbin SH-5 Amphibious Aircraft
PLA Naval Aviation Harbin SH-5 Amphibious Aircraft

The PLA Naval Aviation would undergo significant change once China’s first aircraft carrier is fully operational. Near the end of October 2006, Russian state-run weapon exporter Rosoboronexport was completing negotiations with China to deliver up to 48 Sukhoi Su-33 (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 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.
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