A YU-20 aerial tanker hosts aerial refuelling for a J-20 and a J-16 multirole fighter simultaneously.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force released this undated photo on August 24, 2022 at a press conference prior to the PLA Air Force’s open day event in Changchun, Northeast China’s Jilin Province from August 26 to 30. Photo: Courtesy of the PLA Air Force

The YU-20 aerial tanker, the force amplifier that recently entered service with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force and made frequent appearances in exercises around the island of Taiwan earlier this month, will be a star of the show at the upcoming PLA Air Force open day event with its first static display to the general public.

Warplanes in the “20 family,” including the J-20 stealth fighter jet, the Y-20 large transport aircraft and the YU-20 aerial tanker, will participate in the open day event, which will be held in Changchun, Northeast China’s Jilin Province from Friday to Tuesday, Shen Jinke, a spokesperson for the PLA Air Force, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

It is the first time the YU-20 will be put on static display to the general public, while the J-20 stealth fighter jet and the Y-20 large transport aircraft will deliver flight performances, Shen said.

The biggest highlight of the event is that the public can have close contact with the YU-20, Wang Mingzhi, a Chinese military expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

While China previously developed the HU-6 aerial tanker, it could not carry as much fuel. With the new YU-20, China has made a key breakthrough, significantly boosting the PLA Air Force’s capabilities in long-distance manoeuvring, far-reaching offense and defence as well as long-distance delivery, Wang said.

A photo of a YU-20 tanker hosting aerial refuelling for a J-20 stealth fighter and a J-16 multirole fighter were shown at the press conference. It was the first time such a photo was released.

Wang said that the photo showed that most main force warplanes of the PLA Air Force can receive aerial refuelling. Generally speaking, each aerial refuelling can increase the aircraft’s combat radius by 30-35 percent, he said.

It also showed that the YU-20 can host aerial refuelling for two aircraft of different types simultaneously, demonstrating that the aerial tanker is flexible, which has high tactical significance, Wang said.

Shen, the spokesperson, again confirmed that aircraft including the J-20 and J-16 fighter jets, the H-6K bomber and the YU-20 tanker have participated in exercises around the island of Taiwan. “The Air Force has firm will, full confidence and sufficient capability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.

In addition to the “20 family” aircraft, warplanes like the J-16 will deliver flight performances in Changchun, together with aerobatic shows from the Bayi and the Red Falcon aerobatic teams with J-10 fighter jets and K-8 trainer jets, plus parachuting shows, according the press conference.

Rehearsals for the open day event showed that a large number of different types of aircraft, including the J-10C fighter jet, J-11B fighter jet, JH-7 fighter bomber, JL-10 advanced trainer, KJ-200 early warning aircraft, KJ-500 early warning aircraft, Y-8 transport aircraft, Z-10 attack helicopter and Z-8 transport helicopter, had arrived at the event site.

During the PLA Air Force’s open day event in 2016, China announced that it was developing a next-generation long-range strike bomber, and speculation over the alleged H-20 bomber has been a hot topic since.

When asked about the PLA Air Force’s new warplane development, Shen said that any weapon or type of equipment is developed step by step, based on the country’s combat needs and strategic security situation.

“We are closely aiming toward the goal of building a world-class air force and continue to push forward the development of equipment,” Shen said.

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