A Chinese air force unit, consisting of 6 Ilyushin IL-76 transport aircrafts, Tuesday headed for east Russia for a joint anti-terrorism drill that is sponsored by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
The transporters took off from an airport in west China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region at 8:30 AM and would fly for about four hours and 2,900 kilometers before arriving at the drill venue.
The aircrafts were carrying more than 200 combat officers and soldiers with the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), who will be deployed at Russian airports for the drill.
Another two air force units, using the same transporters, will take off from Xinjiang to deliver more soldiers and armament in the upcoming days.
The combat officers and soldiers, one of the first PLA groups to arrive at the drill venue, will soon start training for the drill.
The Russian-made Ilyushin IL-76 transporter, a major equipment of air transportation and airborne troops of PLA, will also be used as navigating planes for PLA fighters and bombers to arrive at the venue.
"It will be a milestone in PLA air force history for its long distance transport of group aircrafts with comprehensive logistics for the first time," Zheng Yuanlin, commander of the first transporter unit, told Xinhua before departure.
Qiao Qingchen, commander of the PLA Air Force and member of China's Central Military Commission, went to the airport Tuesday morning to see the officers and soldiers off.
The "Peace Mission 2007" drill will be carried out in Chelyabinsk in Russia and in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang.
The SCO members -- China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- will stage the joint anti-terrorism drill from August 9 to 17, which will involve 6,000 military personnel, including 4,700 Russian soldiers and 36 aircrafts.
(Xinhua News Agency July 31, 2007)