After sending five warships to the disputed South China Sea to help with the search effort for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, the People’s Liberation Army Navy has taken notice of the large anti-submarine aircraft operated by the United States, Australia, Japan and Taiwan, which China currently lacks, according to the state-run Global Times.
As China currently has the third-largest submarine fleet in the world, many other countries in the region including South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Australia have purchased Lockheed P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft from the United States, in what the paper sees as an attempt to counter threats from the PLA Navy. The US Navy has also deployed six advanced Boeing P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine aircraft with the capability to carry torpedoes, depth charges, SLAM-ER missiles, and Harpoon anti-ship missiles to Japan.
With the help of P-3C patrol aircraft, the Royal Australian Navy detected the debris which could potentially be part of the wreckage of flight MH370. An anti-submarine aircraft like the P-3C can stay in the sky for over 10 hours on patrol missions, according to the paper. China, on the other hand, has to waste a lot of time and resources deploying warships and helicopters to locate the debris.
Even China’s most advanced Type 052C guided-missile destroyer and Tupolev Tu-154 intelligence gathering aircraft have been found to be relatively ineffective in the search effort, compared to anti-submarine aircraft. As the Washington-based newspaper Stars and Stripes reported, the US Navy’s Boeing P-8A Poseidon also arrived in Perth to join the search for the flight MH370 plane debris. The aircraft has a maximum speed of 490 knots, a ceiling of 41,000 feet, and provides a range of more than 1,200 nautical miles in a four-hour shift.
“While on station, the crew uses all of the aircraft’s sensors to identify objects in the water since we don’t know exactly how big the debris may be,” said Lieutenant Joshua Mize, a tactical coordinator aboard the P-8A. “Factors such as the number of ships or objects in the area, sea state, drift rate, and visibility can affect how much area we’re able to cover.” On Mar. 20, the P-8A confirmed that debris had been detected in waters 2,500 kilometers west of the Australian coast.
The performance of the Australian and American anti-submarine aircraft during the operation to search for the flight MH370 plane has demonstrated to China that it is time for the PLA Navy to develop or purchase its own anti-submarine aircraft, according to the Global Times.