Commercial satellite imagery captured on 28 April has confirmed the deployment of a military aircraft, a Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation (SAC) Y-8 transport, on China’s artificial island at Subi Reef in the contested Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea.
The move, which was noted in a 9 May report by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), means that military aircraft have now landed on all three of China’s airstrips in the archipelago, located at Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef, and Mischief Reef.
The first one was what Chinese state-owned media described as “a naval patrol aircraft”, possibly a Y-8 or similar platform, which landed at Fiery Cross Reef in April 2016 to evacuate three personnel who had fallen ill.
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