China to enhance aerial refuelling capabilities with new Y-20U tanker

David Axe examines China's new Xi'an Y-20U tanker aircraft, which stretched its legs for the first time during a probe of Taiwan's air defence identification zone (ADIZ) in late 2021, and details how the new platform will boost the People's Liberation Army Air Force's (PLAAF's) air-to-air refueling capabilities.

Twenty-seven Chinese warplanes skirted Taiwan on November 28, 2021 – they cut across the island nation’s southwestern ADIZ without crossing into its national airspace. The sortie itself wasn’t unusual, as the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF) routinely send fighters, bombers and patrol aircraft on missions around Taiwan for training and as demonstrations of force. However, this mission was special in at least one regard: it marked the first time the PLAAF had sent one of its new Y-20U tankers – which are critical to the PLAAF’s war plans – along on an ADIZ probe.

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