The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) issued Regulations on Air Force Aircraft Painting and Marking (Trial) recently (hereinafter referred to as the Regulations). It is known that the low visibility of aircraft painting and marking in the air is a practical requirement and development trend for actual combat, so as to reduce the probability of visual discovery. The newly issued Regulations fully correspond to such a requirement and set clear standards for the painting and marking of various aircraft of the PLA Air Force. The new Regulations will be implemented in 2020 in a gradual manner, the PLA Daily reported on Friday.
The Regulations consist of five chapters and 16 articles, which require newly-developed combat aircraft to be fully painted with low-visibility coating, and those old aircraft on active duty to apply unified marking painting. Requirements for special markings, such as national flag, “Chinese Air Force” and “Red Cross” are also included. It is informed that in order to make sure the new Regulations scientific, targeted and operable, the drafting team of the Regulations has carried out in-depth analysis on domestic and foreign air forces’ aircraft painting and marking cases, and fully drew on the opinions of all parties.
Paintings and markings can help protect an aircraft from corrosions and allow others to identify an aircraft’s country of origin. Using similar sky colors, usually gray, light blue, and silver, also makes human eye detection difficult for the enemy. It is a combat requirement and development trend that military aircraft have low observable paintings to reduce visible detection, which also indicate combat capabilities, according to the regulation.
Besides the J-20 stealth fighter jet that focuses on low observability for both the human eye and radars, China has been experimenting with low observable coatings on its J-16 fighter jet since 2018. The J-16, based on the non-stealth fighter jet Su-27, now features a dark gray coat instead of its original bluish-gray tone and has replaced its original Air Force insignia with a light gray design. The new coat will provide the J-16 a level of stealth capabilities not only against the naked eye but also with electromagnetic devices. Having tested the new coatings and markings on the J-20 stealth and J-16, the PLAAF is ready to expand their use on fighter jets, bombers, cargo planes, and special mission aircraft.