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Chinese Navy Air Force
by James Dunnigan
July 10, 2010

The Chinese Navy has its own air force, with over 400 combat aircraft. Most of these are elderly, but still dangerous under the right conditions. These aircraft operate from 24 air bases along the 18,000 kilometer long coastline.

There are about 120 H-6s, a Chinese built Russian Tu-16. Although the Tu-16 design is over fifty years old, China has continued to rely on their H-6s as one of their principal bombers. The H-6 is a 78 ton bomber with a crew of four, a 6,000 kilometer range. It can carry nine tons of bombs and missiles.

There are about 45 J-7s, a Chinese built copy of the MiG-21. Many are being equipped with Western (or Western class) electronics and engines. This makes it a considerably improved MiG-21. Can carry 1.5 tons of bombs.

There are about 60 J-8s, a Chinese two engine variant of the MiG-21. China's first attempt at building their own aircraft. But it was not a very original or successful effort. Can carry about three tons of bombs and is mainly used by the navy.

There are nearly a hundred JH-7s. These are Chinese designed and built fighter-bombers that entered service in the 1990s. They were meant to replace the  retired H-5s (Russian Il-28 copies).

There are 24 Su-30s (a Russian design) and at least two J-15s (a Chinese copy of the Russian Su-27s modified to operate from carriers). The navy would like to replace all its J-7s and J-8s with Su-30s, but that won't happen. Meanwhile, the navy is being provided with J-11s. In the last few months, satellite photos have shown J-11 jet fighters at naval air bases. These are illegal Chinese copies of the Russian Su-27. These are cheaper than Su-30s, and are built entirely of Chinese parts.

The remaining aircraft are helicopters, trainers and transports.

The navy has long had a reputation as a ramshackle outfit, with old (and often rejected by the air force) aircraft, poor training and indifferent leadership. There have been considerable efforts to change all that, but progress is slow.


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