Satellite imagery acquired by Defense News indicates unmanned aircraft and China’s newest Y-8X maritime patrol aircraft – equipped with a seven-meter long Magnetic Anamoly Detector to detect magnetic signatures of submarine hulls – have been deployed to Hainan Island, on the fringes of the South China Sea.
Photos snapped by commercial firm DigitalGlobe on May 10 and May 20 show four sub-hunters, three Harbin BZK-005 recon unmanned aerial vehicles and two KJ-500 early warning jets parked at Lingshui Air Base on Hainan Island.
The Y-8X aircraft were put into service in 2015 but haven’t been documented at Lingshui until now.
DigitalGlobe has active partnerships with Facebook, Uber, Esri and Mapbox, according to the company’s website.
The sub-hunter is the first combat-ready maritime patrol plane to be commissioned by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA-N), Defense News notes.
The Y-98Q may also have the ability to carry anti-surface ship munitions, but the news outlet cannot independently verify this.
The planes may be permanently stationed on Hainan as PLA-N bolsters the South Sea Fleet’s “domain-awareness and sea-control capabilities,” Defense News added.
Lingshui Air Base gained notoriety in 2001 when a US Navy EP-3 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft crashed with a Chinese J-8 high-speed, high-altitude aircraft in midair, killing the Chinese pilot involved.
The US Navy aircraft was forced to send out a “mayday” signal, according to GlobalSecurity.org, and make an emergency landing at the Linshui Air Base.