China’s largest military cargo plane flew to a base in the South China Sea, but it’s not clear why


China flew its biggest warplane, the Y-20 transporter, to Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed South China Sea on December 25, satellite images show.

The huge aircraft was seen on the airstrip on the militarised reef in the Spratly Islands but was not observed loading or unloading cargo.

The images were posted on LinkedIn on Tuesday by Ken Joyce, director of product management at Maxar Technologies, an American space technology company. “Y-20 transport observed at Fiery Cross Reef. Detected by DeepCore AI/ML,” he said.

A Chinese military source confirmed the operation and said the Y-20 was deployed to test its capabilities. “It’s the first time China has deployed the Y-20 to the Spratlys,” the person said, without disclosing any further details.