15 October 2009

The 34th Air Division of the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) of China operates 8 Boeing 737-300s and two 737-700s for VIP transport of government and military officials. Delivered between 1988 and 2003, the Boeing twins replaced a mixed fleet of Ilyushin Il-18 turboprops and Hawker Siddeley HS.121 Trident 2B jetliners that had been using in the VIP role since the early 1970s. The fleet operates in a quasi-civil red and blue scheme.

Two of the 737s, however, that were purchased from Garuda Indonesia in 2000, serve in the airborne command post role. The two aircraft were registered as B-4052 (ex PK-GWI, MSN 24701/LN 1957) and B-4053 (ex PK-GWJ, MSN 24702/LN 1994) and were converted by Xian Aircraft Co. with a dorsal-mounted teardrop fairing ahead of the wings (presumably a SATCOM antenna) and two smaller ventral teardrop fairings for and aft of the wings that likely serve the specialized communications suite. The two airborne command posts also wear a gray low-visibility finish with a Chinese flag on the tail.

Some controversy exists as to whether the modification of these aircraft constituted a violation of Sino-American trade agreements and export laws.

Source: Chinese Aircraft: China's Aviation Industry since 1951 by Yefim Gordon and Dmitriy Komissarov. Hikoki Publications Ltd, 2008, p251.

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