The Chinese military’s aerial transport squadron is to be boosted by as many as 1,000 large strategic aircraft, with Beijing seeking to model the force after its American and Russian counterparts.
“More than 1,000 Y-20s will be needed,” said Zhu Qian, the head of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, Britain’s IHS Jane’s military journal reported.
The official was referring to the Xian Y-20 aircraft, which is under development by China’s Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation.
Commonly referred to as Chubby Girl, the plane has been designed to be capable of flying as far as 4,500 km (2,700 miles) with a max payload of 66 tons. With its wings 50 meters (164 feet) apart, it also surpasses any other Chinese aircraft in size.
The Chinese military’s National Defense University had previously recommended the production of 400 of the aircraft.
Zhu said the new estimate of 1,000 is “based on the experience of the United States and Russia,” in an indication of China’s intention to rival the countries’ airlifter fleet.
The plane’s range “means it can reach everywhere in Europe and Asia, the US state of Alaska, Australia, and North Africa,” according to the Chinese People’s Daily.
Qian said China planned to build “300-ton, 400-ton and even 600-ton aircraft.”
The military’s Air Force has also announced that its fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter was to enter the production phase.
‘US plane intercepted’
On Tuesday, unnamed US military officials told CNN that one such warplane had intercepted a US plane flying over the East China Sea in an “unsafe manner.”
The Chinese Defense Ministry said in a statement later, “Judging by the report, the US side is again deliberately hyping up the issue of the close surveillance of China by US military aircraft.”
“Chinese military pilots consistently carry out operations in accordance with the law and the rules, and are professional and responsible,” the statement read.
On June 1, the Chinese Air Force said it was still testing the aircraft, its first stealth fighter, which has been built to mirror Lockheed Martin’s radar-evading F-22 Raptor.
It said the warplane would soon enter service but Chinese media suggested it had already joined active fleet.
Washington has been pursuing a widely-advertised shift to Asia, dubbed the pivot to Asia strategy since 2011.
The White House argues that no region is more important to Washington’s long-term interests than Asia.
Some political observers, however, believe the US is trying to use the strategy to impose its hegemony and thwart China’s declared peaceful rise in Asia.
Based on the strategy, the administration of US President Barack Obama has been seeking closer ties with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
It has also been increasingly critical of China’s activities in the disputed islands claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea and, on occasions, dispatched aircraft and warships on patrols close to the territories.
Last month, the Pentagon said two Chinese fighter jets flew within 50 feet (15 meters) of a US EP-3 aircraft over the South China Sea.
China has claimed most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year.
Washington has accused Beijing of militarizing the South China Sea after creating artificial islands. Beijing, in turn, has criticized increased US naval patrols and exercises in Asia.