China’s J-10C Fighters ‘Thunder’ In Saudi Arabia; Stun With Hypnotic Performance After Rare Refueling

A video published by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) late last month showed a very rare refueling of seven J-10C Fighter jets by a single YY-20 refueling aircraft in a stunning display of PLAAF’s might.

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The video has been recorded by the pilots flying the J-10C. As the video progresses, a pilot whose jet is getting fuelled records the process from inside the cockpit. Then, the frame returns to showing six aircraft flying alongside the YY-20 while one of the seven pilots records the incredible spectacle.

The J-10C aircraft were on their way to participate in the World Defense Show in Saudi Arabia.

This is the first time the PLA Air Force has supported aerial refueling during the changeover phase of operations abroad with a YY-20 aerial tanker. This eliminates the requirement for the Bayi Aerobatic Team to make intermediate stops at foreign airports en route to Saudi Arabia.

Ma Quan, a military specialist, told the state-owned publication Global Times that the J-10 performance formation’s first-ever long-distance direct flight using the YY-20 for aerial refueling illustrates three major things.

“Firstly, aerial refueling technology is an indispensable key part of modern air forces. It greatly extends the aircraft’s loiter time and enhances the endurance of fighter jets. During this overseas mission, the Bayi Aerobatic Team used aerial refueling, eliminating the need for the aircraft to land at an airport, thus reducing reliance on ground airports. Secondly, the team’s long-distance transition, accompanied by the domestically-produced YY-20 aerial tanker, signifies the maturity of China’s key aerial refueling technology and reflects the achievements of the PLA’s strategic transformation and construction of the Air Force in recent years.”

The YY-20 is China’s next-generation aerial refueling aircraft, which debuted at the China Air Show hosted in Zhuhai in 2022.

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) can now execute long-range jet maneuvers thanks to the tanker aircraft’s capacity to refuel with various fighter jets, including the J-20, J-16, and the J-10C.

The YY-20 is equipped with two refueling pods for hose and fuel missions on its outer wings and an additional one on the rear fuselage. In a previous interview with China Media Group, military expert Song Xinzhi stated that the tanker can carry over 100 tonnes of fuel, half of which can be used to refuel other aircraft. It can also refuel many fighter jets at once, increasing the duration of their loiter or range.

YY-20 refueling aircraft flying with J-20 and J-16 (via Platform X)

For the PLA Air Force, the YY-20 tanker is essential because it can significantly increase the flying range of combat aircraft by aerial refueling. It became a part of the elite military aircraft line known as the PLA’s “20-series,” which also includes the J-20 and Y-20.

In the past, the PLAAF published videos of the Y-20 refueling China’s J-15 carrier-based aircraft. The refueling aircraft also made an appearance alongside the J-16 and the J-20 at China’s own Changchun Air Show in August last year.

However, the refueling of seven J-10Cs in a single mission is truly a rare sight and could be seen as signaling by the PLAAF to its adversaries, especially in the wake of rising tensions with its regional adversaries and the United States.

The J-10Cs, which were en route to the World Defense Show that kickstarted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on February 4, have since garnered a lot of appreciation with their stunning displays conducted by their ace acrobatic team.

J-10Cs Shines At World Defense Show

China’s air force and military delegation attended the opening ceremony of the Second World military Show on  February 4 in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. 

On February 5, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force performed an aerial display during the World Defense Show in Riyadh. According to Senior Colonel Xie Peng, a spokesperson of the PLA Air Force, this is the team’s tenth overseas flight, exhibiting the allure of China’s “Honor Guard in the Blue Sky.”

In November last year, the PLAAF J-10C fighter jets participated in the 18th edition of the Dubai Air Show hosted in UAE. It was the first visit of the acrobatic team to Dubai since it switched from flying in the J-10A to the new J-10C.

At the time, the J-10C team performed four flight performances and showcased three different programs consisting of at least 20 maneuvers. 

The recent performance at Riyadh also spilled a lot of color. The Bayi Aerobatic Team deliberately included green, the colored smoke option, for this performance since it symbolizes both peace and friendship and the Saudi Arabian national flag.

Before they took off for Riyadh, the PLAAF said in a statement that the crew was certain that it would deliver the most thrilling aerobatic performance of the show, highlighting the image and charm of the PLA Air Force’s adventurous spirit and pursuit of perfection in the global arena.

File: J-10C China

Analysts predicted that in addition to showcasing China’s image and opening doors for cordial military cooperation with the host nation and other participating nations, the flight performances will showcase the capabilities of Chinese aviation equipment to prospective Middle Eastern clients.

Chinese experts have frequently stated that the aircraft is a very good option for any country looking for a potent, dependable, and reasonably priced fourth-generation fighter jet. The J-10C is not only one of the primary combat aircraft of the PLA Air Force but it has also been exported to Pakistan and received positive feedback.