Naval Air Force
By Han Bin, Huang Xiaodong
04:34

One of the greatest transformations of the PLA Navy is the growing emphasis on its own air force, the Naval Aviation branch. For the past decade, it has been more dramatically developed than the PLA Air Force. Historically, Chinese Naval Aviation has been land-based. Now it covers maritime patrols, anti-submarine operations, and logistical support.

Cavalry in the sky 

We were given rare access to a key naval aviation regiment of the PLA North Sea Fleet for a first-hand look at how this new branch is transforming.

Flight officer Liu Peng and his team were preparing a Z-9 helicopter formation for April's big parade. He's been flying Z-9s since 2005. He can see the rising role of naval aviation through increasingly diversified missions.

Liu Peng showing CGTN reporter Han Bin a Z-9, one of China's latest indigenous aircraft with advanced attack capabilities. /CGTN Photo

Liu Peng showing CGTN reporter Han Bin a Z-9, one of China's latest indigenous aircraft with advanced attack capabilities. /CGTN Photo

"The Z-9 is more like a light cavalry in the sky. It's highly flexible," says Liu Peng, PLA Naval Aviation flight officer.

Taking center stage

The Naval Aviation force has developed into a maritime attack and support force composed of shore-based aircraft, aircraft carriers, and seaplanes. And with the navy going blue, its air weaponry is also progressing.

"With the transformation and growth of the army, the training intensity is becoming much higher. Especially when the new pilots are assigned, their growth period has been seriously shortened," says Liu Peng.

Z-9 helicopters in formation training for the parade off the coast of Qingdao, to mark the 70th anniversary of the PLA Navy. /CGTN Photo

Z-9 helicopters in formation training for the parade off the coast of Qingdao, to mark the 70th anniversary of the PLA Navy. /CGTN Photo

The navy is accelerating its combat training to conduct multiple missions. Participating in the anniversary parade is another sign this new branch is taking center stage in the Navy. Liu Peng says he will present the very best to the people of the country and the world, with the new image of China's Naval Aviation force.