China’s People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy is likely to buy the domestically developed Modern Ark 60 (MA60) airliner and convert it into a maritime surveillance aircraft, military analysts were cited by Chinese media as saying.
The PLA Navy may have the new MA60 search and guidance aircraft in its arsenal of special-mission aircraft. Special-mission aircraft plays an important role in high sea surveillance and intelligence gathering, making them a focus of development by navies around the world, Weihutang, a column on the military affiliated with China Central Television, reported Wednesday.
The PLA Navy is procuring electro-optical detection units, communication relay units, navigation units and BeiDou transceivers for the twin turboprop MA60 airliner, according to a notice published by Chinese military's weapon and equipment procurement website weain.mil.cn.
“Once customized with the likes of sea surface search radars and electro-optical detection equipment, the MA60 can cover a considerably large sea area and conduct surveillance missions on vessels,” Wei Dongxu, a military analyst told Global Times Thursday.
China uses special-mission variants of the Y-8 and Y-9 transport aircraft to conduct such missions, but their numbers are limited, the Weihutang report noted.
“Although its range, endurance and surveillance capability might not be as good as those of the Y-8-based special-mission aircraft, they can complement each other,” Wei said.
He added that the MA60 uses mature technologies and has a high cost performance. “Also, maintenance of the converted plane is likely less complicated than designated warplanes, making it more suitable on island bases,” he added.