The Chinese Air Force is expanding its 78th (Search and Rescue, or SAR) Regiment with medical evacuation aircraft. The unit already has eight Z-8 helicopters for search and rescue of downed pilots. Now the regiment has a Y-8 and Boeing 737, each equipped with medical equipment to carry stabilized casualties to medical facilities. Each aircraft can carry 41 patients on stretchers and 15 walking wounded in seats. A medical team of seven tends to the patients, and equipment on the aircraft (which is similar to that found in a hospital ICU/ Intensive Care Unit.)
The 60 ton propeller driven Y8 (which is based on the Russian An-12) is similar to the American C-130, while the 79 ton, Boeing 737 is common in Chinese airlines (some of them controlled by the Chinese Air Force). The 13 ton Z-8 SAR helicopters rendered heroic, and well publicized, service during the 2008 earthquake in Central China. But the lack of large, fixed wing, medical evacuation aircraft was noted, especially by Chinese medical professionals who had noted the growing use of such aircraft by the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan.