After the Chinese PLA Air Force disclosed on May 18 that multi-type bombers including the H-6K conducted take-off and landing training on islands in the South China Sea, some Russian media then reported that the airports on the islands would ensure that Chinese bombers be able to conduct long-range patrols over the sea routes leading to the Malacca Strait.
"The Malacca Strait, as an important passage linking the South China Sea, has enormous economic and military significance. If the Chinese air force's long-range bombers can conduct patrols over the Malacca Strait, the surrounding areas will certainly be under deterrence. We can tell the world that we have the capability, though we aren't likely to do so," military researcher Lan Shunzheng said in a recent interview by Science and Technology Daily newspaper.
Military expert Wang Mingliang also said that the take-off and landing training involving multi-type bombers on the islands in the South China Sea enhanced the PLA Air Force's combat capability and combat readiness to respond to various maritime security threats.
The Russian report suggested that when China’s navy and air force have the necessary number of heavy-duty aerial tankers based on the Y-20 transport aircraft, they will be more willing to use those airports on islands where such tankers are deployed.
"It is generally estimated that the standard voyage of H-6K is 6,000 kilometers. It is possible to take off from the airport on islands in the South China Sea to carry out patrol tasks around the Malacca Strait. But if it is going to stay for a long time in the surrounding areas, the H-6K still needs the help of an aerial tanker to enhance its cruise and combat effectiveness," said Lan Shunzheng.
So, what are the special requirements for the performance of fighter jets deployed on the island airports in the South China Sea? What are the challenges in technical support?
Expert Lan Shunzheng said that marine equipment and land equipment are very different. The basic point is that marine equipment must be waterproof, moisture-proof, salt-resistant and anti-fog to adapt to the maritime environment.
"Therefore, we must redesign and improve the relevant equipment if we are to deploy the H-6K or frequently use island airports. Of course, China has a lot of experience in this area," added Lan.