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PLAAF J-16 brigade adopts AR for maintenance

The PLAAF has introduced an augmented reality (AR)-assisted maintenance programme for an air brigade newly equipped with SAC J-16 aircraft, coupled with “intelligent” warehousing to improve sustaining and support. This photo shows a J-16 in flight during the 2022 Zhuhai Air Show. (Qian Baihua/VCG via Getty Images)

Another Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) air brigade has converted from legacy aircraft to new 4.5-generation Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-16 fighter aircraft. During the transition, the brigade also adopted augmented reality (AR) and “intelligent” maintenance technologies, state-owned media said.

In footage aired on 7 December, the Chinese state-owned broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV), said the unit is part of the PLA's Eastern Theater Command. Janes, which has assessed the video imagery and geolocated the airbase, has determined that this unit is likely the 84th Air Brigade at Jiaxing.

This makes the 84th Air Brigade the 12th combat brigade in the PLAAF equipped with J-16s (apart from three training brigades equipped with the type), according to Janes inventory and orbat data. Jiaxing is about 90 km southwest of Shanghai. This air brigade was previously equipped with Xi'an Aircraft Company (XAC) JH-7A attack aircraft.

CCTV said the brigade has been provided with what the PLAAF calls a “Mixed Reality Maintenance Centre”. The imagery showed PLAAF personnel conducting maintenance assisted by AR technologies.

“Changing the aircraft engine is a very complex day-to-day work that requires not only foolproof quality but precision and reliable speed,” a member of the air brigade said. “Through long-term use, the brigade has studied and innovated the use of mixed reality maintenance systems. A virtual disassembly of the engine prior to inspection has been realised.”

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