The Chinese People's Liberation Army will possibly transform the country’s C919 and ARJ21 passenger jets for military missions.
The head of the People's Liberation Army's General Armament Department, General Zhang Youxia’s visit to the biannual Beijing Aviation Expo on Thursday led to speculations that China could be following the US in converting civilian equipment for military use, South China Morning Post reported Sunday.
Further, when Zhang visited C919 and ARJ21, observers guessed that the PLA Air Force may probably convert the passenger jets into platforms for early-warning systems and other surveillance.
The products were introduced by manufacturers of passenger jets as well as engines from China, Russia, the US and France, among other countries, as well as Chinese drone makers.
Zhang also enquired about the particulars of the home-grown ARJ21 regional jet and the C919 narrow-body jets, both were developed by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China.
The C919 is the aircraft designed and built in China since the defunct Shanghai Y-10 military transport plane, which was discarded in 1986 due to financial and technical problems.
Besides, the C919's technology is fuel-efficient than the Y-20 military carrier, which is under development. "I believe that in the next decade, the C919 and ARJ21 will become the main platforms for the air force's airborne warning system and other special military flying teams." Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said.
ARJ21s could be converted into anti-submarine aircraft as soon as China developed a reliable alternative to its existing American engine.
The Y-20 carrier has a long-range strike system that can target any point in the Western Pacific. It is China's first jet-powered stealth aircraft developed by Xian Aircraft Industrial Corporation, an offshoot of Aviation Industry Corporation of China.
However, the Y-20 is still needs improvement on its WS-20 engine, meanwhile C919 is using more reliable engines and avionics supplied by Irish-American GE Capital Aviation Services. The development of the C919 and Y-20 are part of the PLA's mission to become a real blue-water power.
The passenger jets have a longer flying range, more space and a greater take-off weight than China's military aircraft.