China’s air force has deployed its “flying hospital” for the first time as it seeks to improve its medical support for troops amid the ongoing confrontation with India.
An aviation team from the Western Theatre Command sent a Y-9 medical aircraft to ferry a critically injured officer 5,200km (3,230 miles) from a base in Tibet to a hospital in Xian, the PLA air force announced on WeChat.
A report from Xinhua said the officer, surnamed Zhang, was injured in a recent drill and his condition was deteriorating.
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A five-member medical team closely monitored the unconscious Zhang over the four-and-a-half hour flight, until they transferred him to Xijing hospital safely, Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday.
A Beijing-based military source said the plane is just one element of the PLA’s drive to improve medical support at high altitudes, especially on the disputed border with India.
China and India share a 3,400km border in the Himalayas that has no clear official demarcation line.
Last month a confrontation between Indian and PLA troops in the Galwan Valley – part of the disputed Ladakh region in Kashmir – resulted in the highest number of deaths in decades, including 20 Indian dead.
Beijing has not revealed the number of Chinese casualties, but the military source claimed the number was less than their Indian counterparts.
He said that improvements in medical support are crucial in keeping casualties low during skirmishes like the Galwan Valley clash.
“The Y-9 flying hospital will play a key role for transferring the critically wounded, while many local hospitals near the border on the Himalayas have been equipped with hyperbaric oxygen chambers for first aid treatment,” said the source, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to media over this issue.
Hong Kong-based military commentator Song Zhongping, said the development of the Y-9 medical variant aircraft was part of the ongoing military reforms to boost combat readiness.
Song said the PLA also had other border areas besides India in mind when overhauling its medical capacity.
“Medical support is the most important and a universal method to maintain the combat capability of an army, especially in severe environments like the Tibet Plateau, where you need special equipment to deal with high altitude and air flow.”
The air force first introduced the medical version of the Y-9 at a training exercise for the preparation for the International Army Games in July 2018.
But the medical aircraft made its public debut in last year’s military parade in Beijing to mark the 70th founding anniversary of the People’s Republic of China last year.
The plane, which is equipped with cardiogram monitors, respirators and other equipment is able to treat 30 wounded during a flight, according to a 2018 report by state broadcaster CCTV.
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This article China seeks to overhaul high-altitude medical support for troops amid border stand-off with India first appeared on South China Morning Post