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PLAN Special Mission Aviation Air Base Renovation and Expansion Activities

  • Published
  • China Aerospace Studies Institute

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Naval Aviation forces have been undergoing a large scale divestment of its shore based aviation capabilities through 2023. However, since then, PLAN Aviation has clearly sought to retain not only is fixed wing anti-submarine warfare (ASW) assets, but also its other shore based special mission aircraft (SMA), notably its intelligence collection aircraft and airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) fleet of KJ-200s and KJ-500s. These aircraft enable the PLAN to conduct modern combined arms tasks such as ASW, supplement a currently non-operational carrier based fixed wing AEW capability, continue to collect electronics intelligence (ELINT) and signals intelligence (SIGINT), and enable further range and jointness when fulfilling air defense and domain awareness tasks in the last PLAN controlled air defense area, the South China Sea. Given the importance of these capabilities, the PLA has been undertaking an effort to expand the land-based facilities which support these aircraft to allow for more airframes to operate from these bases. Since 2021, airfields supporting PLAN SMA in the Eastern Theater Command (ETC) and Northern Theater Command (NTC) have completed or started renovations of their runways or expansions of apron space to enable airfields to house more aircraft or to otherwise continue to generate sorties. Southern Theater Navy (STN) subordinate airfields supporting this type of aviation do not appear to have started renovations within this time frame targeted at supporting SMA.

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