China has deployed Shaanxi Y-8Q anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft to Lingshui Air Base in the southeastern part of Hainan island. The Y-8Q is the most advanced maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) fielded by People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
Satellite photos taken by DigitalGlobe showed four Shaanxi Y-8Q turboprop aircraft parked at the base with its distinctive magnetic anomaly detector boom. The satellite image also showed three Harbin BZK-005 high-altitude, long-range reconnaissance drone at the base. The drone was previously seen at the Chinese air base in the disputed Paracel Islands, South China Sea.
The deployment of the KJ-500 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft to Hainan at nearby Jialaishi Air Base was reported earlier.
The PLAN air bases in Hainan are home to Shenyang J-11B Flanker fighters and Xian JH-7 fighter-bombers, from which they have been used to intercept U.S. military aircraft operating over South China Sea.
The Y-8Q is combat-capable and boasts improved ASW capabilities. It is based on an Shaanxi Y-8 airlifter with improved engines and new high-efficiency, six-bladed propellers.
In addition to the magnetic anomaly detector boom, which is used to hunt submarines by detecting minute variations in the Earth’s magnetic field, the Y-8Q also has a surface-search radar and an electro-optical (EO) sensor turret for the maritime patrol mission. There is also a fuselage weapons bay located forward of the main landing gear which are likely used for carrying torpedoes. The Y-8Qs are also reported to have fuselage sonobuoy dispensers and external hardpoints for anti-ship missiles.