U.S. defense intelligence officials confirmed that the Chinese
air force is operating the 10 Boeing civil airliners
as military jet transports.
"If PLA commandos capture a Taiwan airfield, there will be
scores of U.S.-made transports bringing in troops and weapons to
make it secure," stated Richard Fisher, a defense analyst and
fellow at the Jamestown Foundation.
"There are several PRC airlines that are either owned or linked
to the PLAAF [People's Liberation Army Air Force]," noted
"They mostly fly Boeing craft, though some Russian airliners as
well. I assume that most airliners in PRC airlines are subject
to mobilization if necessary."
A high-level source inside Capitol Hill is also concerned that
U.S. laws may have been broken. The use of U.S.-made commercial
transports for military purposes is considered a violation of
U.S. export laws unless a "waiver" was issued to China.
"Any waiver to allow China to use U.S. civil airliners as
military aircraft would have come from the [Clinton] White
House," said one source. "We have to check on this and find
According to a 1994 U.S. military report, the Clinton
administration was aware that China United Airlines was owned by
the PLAAF. Documentation obtained using the Freedom of
Information Act shows that China United Airlines is one
of several businesses wholly owned and operated by the People's
Liberation Army Air Force or PLAAF.
"China United Airlines (CUA) is a commercial entity of the PLA
Air Force," states a 1994 report on the Chinese military issued
by Lt. Col. Dennis Blasko, former U.S. defense attaché to
"The major enterprise subordinate to the PLA Air Force is the
China Lantian [Blue Sky] Industrial Corp," noted Blasko.
"Also affiliated to Lantian is the Tian Ma [Sky Horse] Brand of
vehicles and vehicle repair parts and facilities."
According to its own Web site, the PLAAF-owned China United
Airlines also operates a small fleet of Russian-made Ilyushin
IL-76 jet transports. The IL-76 four-engine jet is the
front-line PLAAF military transport, and the Chinese civil
version is frequently armed with a cannon located in a rear
In addition, PLAAF IL-76 transports dropped paratroopers, tanks
and artillery directly onto the battlefield during the fall
2000 Chinese military exercises.
One U.S. defense source expressed concern that China may modify
some of the Boeing 737 jets with military technology stolen from
the recently captured U.S. Navy EP-3 Aries surveillance plane.
"The EP-3 is about the size of a Boeing 737 commercial
jetliner," noted the defense official.
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