China is mass producing Shaanxi Aircraft Industry Group Corporation (SAIC) Y-9 special mission aircraft, according to a report published by the state-owned Global Times newspaper on 8 December.
The article, which is based on a TV programme broadcast the previous day by CCTV-7, claims that the Y-9 special mission aircraft will "allow the Chinese military to recognise every hostile movement, and even sabotage enemy communications".
The Global Times report states that a pulse assembly line has been created at the SAIC manufacturing facility in Hanzhong, with each airframe progressing through five assembly stations before the completed aircraft emerges from the final stage. The caption on one of the broadcast images claims that this process enables a 30% increase in throughput.
The aircraft's design is derived from the Antonov An-12 'Cub' - several units of which were bought by China from the Soviet Union in the 1960s - and was produced as the Shaanxi Y-8 from the early 1970s. Production of a modernised and uprated version, the Y-9, began around 2010, with the aircraft entering service with the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in 2012.
The baseline variant of the Y-9 is used as a tactical transport aircraft and can carry about 20 tons of cargo or about 100 paratroopers. Previous analysis by Jane's assessed that about one-third of Y-9 aircraft are built to this baseline configuration.
The Y-8/Y-9 airframe has also been used for the development of several variants of 'special mission aircraft', the Gao Xing/New High series, which includes airborne early warning and control (AEW&C), anti-submarine maritime patrol aircraft (MPA), electronic intelligence (ELINT), communications intelligence (COMINT), electronic countermeasures (ECM), and psychological operations (PSYOPS) versions.
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