The US and Chinese military have recently deployed submarine hunting aircraft to increase submarine tracking and intelligence gathering in the South China Sea.

US P-8A submarine hunter (left) and Chinese KQ-200 submarine hunter. Photo: Reuters / Twitter
US P-8A submarine hunter (left) and Chinese KQ-200 submarine hunter. Photo: Reuters / Twitter

Military experts consider submarines to be a powerful weapon in the South China Sea, so recently both the United States and China have intensified deployment of anti-submarine aircraft to this sea.

China sent anti-submarine warplanes to the Spratly Islands

The satellite image released by ImageSat International (Israel) in May showed that China sent KJ-500 early warning aircraft, KQ-200 anti-submarine planes to the Cross Rock in the Spratly Islands. The KQ-200 (also known as Y-8Q) is based on the Soviet An-12 military transport aircraft, believed to be able to carry sonobuoys to monitor submarines and torpedoes.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong-based military expert, Song Zhongping said:

“The rivalry between the great powers is getting more and more intense, and the PLA must strengthen its preparations.”

“So the PLA is trying to enhance its capabilities by constantly installing and testing new anti-submarine equipment.”

In May, the People’s Liberation Army newspaper confirmed that anti-submarine warplanes carried out patrol and anti-submarine missions in the South China Sea but did not specify a specific location. The move is thought to be in response to the three US submarines participating in joint drills with US air and marines in the Philippine Sea. In addition, the submarine force of the US Pacific Fleet in May suddenly announced that all seven submarines were carrying out “contingency operations” in the western Pacific Ocean to deter China, according to

US upgraded anti-submarine warfare weapons

In recent months, the United States continued to deploy P-8A anti-submarine aircraft to conduct patrol missions in the South China Sea. Kris Osborn, an expert at National Interest, called it part of a strategy to prevent China’s unruly actions in the South China Sea.

“The United States has been continuing Chinese sub-hunting patrols with its Poseidon P-8 surveillance plane in the South China Sea area. It takes little imagination to envision ways its advanced sensors, sonobuoys and weapons could function as part of a containment strategy against Chinese expansion⁠—and even operate as a deterrent against China’s growing fleet of nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines,” Osborn said.

The anti-submarine capability of the KQ-200 is still unknown, but is thought to be unable to compete with the newly upgraded P-8A, according to US military experts. On May 15, the Golf9 account, which tracks the plane online on Twitter, discovered a P-8A with a flight monitoring of Yulin Naval Base on Hainan Island (China) in the South China Sea. Golf9 points out that the P-8A is equipped with the secret advanced AN/APS-154 radar system, which can help detect submarines at various depths.

With a maximum speed of 907 km/h, the P-8A is supplemented with 6 fuel tanks and can be refueled in the air, expanding the range of operations. Besides, P-8A can carry Harpoon anti-ship missiles and torpedoes, not only to tracking but also to attack submarines.
In addition, this aircraft can drop sonobuoys, contributing to the so-called “Sound Surveillance System”. This is a wireless network of sensors and other equipment that stretches from the northern coastal region of China to the Philippines and Indonesia, according to National Interest. Some experts also believe that the P-8A can be upgraded to a bomber like the B-52, carrying a variety of weapons such as small bombs and anti-ship guided missiles.


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