The four-engined Y-8GX6 (Y-8Q) turboprop anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft has purportedly finally entered service with the Chinese Naval Air Force after several years of testing, according to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly.
IHS Jane’s bases its report on an article published on a Chinese defense site, which notes that the ASW variant of the Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation (SAC) Y-8/Y-9 medium transport aircraft has been inducted into the North Sea Fleet.
The report neither elaborates on the number of aircraft that have entered service nor the precise induction date. However, it notes that the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s East and South Sea Fleet’s will receive the plane only at a later date.
Equipped with air-launched torpedoes (e.g., Yu-7), anti-ship missiles, sea mines, and sonobuoys the plane has an estimated maximum range of approximately 5,00 km and, according to Popular Science Magazine, can potentially carry over ten tons.
Popular Science Magazine also notes that due to the plane’s size, it may act as a command center for Chinese underwater unmanned vehicles (UUVs) such as the Haiyan glider–China’s first autonomous underwater glider that can dive up to 1,500 meters deep and boasts a range of 1,000 kilometers.
The Y-8GX6, partially based on the Soviet Antonov AN-12, was first revealed in November 2011 and is intended to replace three aging Harbin-SH 5 ASW planes, which first entered service in 1986. Up until the induction of the first Y-8GX6 the Harbin-SH 5 constituted the PLAN’s sole long-range aerial ASW capability.
Popular Science Magazine discusses some of the more noteworthy features of the plane:
The Y-8Q’s most distinctive feature is its seven-meter-long Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) boom, which detects the magnetic signature of enemy submarines’ metal hulls as the Y-8Q flies over them. Since MAD performance correlates to size, and it’s seven-meter MAD boom is arguably the largest of its kind among airplanes, the PLAN would have a fine weapon for hunting otherwise stealthy submarines.
Two Y-8GX6 prototypes have been tested thoroughly for the past several years the article also states. In addition, Popular Science Magazine provides a succinct analysis of the long-term technological implications of China’s most recent ASW asset and what the future may hold in store:
Since the Y-8Q is extending Anti-Access/Area Denial operations underwater, it is almost a given that China is going to invest in future ASW methods. In the future, the Y-8Q may be equipped with more exotic technologies like LIDAR (which uses laser beams to penetrate water to detect objects), hard kill anti-torpedo systems, acoustic signals intelligence and radiation detection (identify radiation from nuclear reactors) that Chinese scientists are already beginning to research.