PLA's island encirclement patrols around Taiwan not news anymore

China Military Online
Zhang Tao

Taiwan closely monitors PLA planes and ships

The PLAAF carried out routine ocean-going training and a number of fighter bombers and reconnaissance aircraft were "patrolling around Taiwan" on Dec 11, 2017. During the training, Taiwan authorities, the U.S. and Japan all dispatched fighter jets to track the PLA aircraft.

On the afternoon of Dec. 17, 2017, the official Weibo account of the PLA Air Force released a video entitled “island encirclement patrol” with a soundtrack called "Me and My Motherland." In the video, flocks of fighters take off for air patrol.

Some people guessed that the mountains in the distance may be in Taiwan, and the Taiwan media claimed that the patrol around the island was targeting Taiwan, the United Daily News exclaimed "the mainland China threat escalates again."

Just over a decade ago, even the most imaginative generals of the U.S., Japan and Taiwan Province couldn’t have imagined such a scene.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the PLA Air Force mainly conducted inland training. There were few coordinated ocean-going training and none that were confrontational, and the pilots only simulated simple combat drills.

Japan's Military Research said that mainland China’s military aircraft began to fly more extensive training trips over the sea after 2004. Each flight consisted of the same type of fighter jets and flew to the designated rendezvous point at sea to return to base as a group.

A Japanese pilot who filmed the Chinese fighter jets said the life of a fighter pilot in Okinawa at that time was very simple because the military situation was almost dead. Just one plane of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force would carry out an emergency scramble. Today, the going-global pace of the PLAAF is so fast that he and his troops feel "in a muddle."

For Taiwan, the PLA Air Force's ability to become familiar with routes and formations exceeded expectations. It took only two years to advance from long-haul training to thorough island patrols.

The Defense International magazine of Taiwan said that on Dec 11. 2017 that the H-6K fighter bombers took off from somewhere in central China and two electronic reconnaissance aircraft took off from the southeast coast.

And the escort aircraft were Russian-made SU-30 MKK fighters capable of in-air refueling. Under the escorting of Su-30MKK fighters, it was very difficult for Taiwan's warplanes to take close-range photos of mainland China’s H-6K fighter bombers.

However, Taiwan's military thinks that they have "a trick" to monitor mainland China’s military aircraft.

Gao Zhiyang, a Taiwanese scholar, disclosed that if Taiwan's military finds that the PLA has entered the island chain, they will generally send sea police or naval vessels into the training routes (the Bashi Channel and the high seas off Taiwan's east coast) for coverage and communications or search and rescue.

In this way, Taiwan's military intelligence units conduct general surveillance of the vessels and aircraft of the PLA, Gao said.

The first issue of Asia-Pacific Defense of Hong Kong in 2018 reported that the PLAAF had flown nine patrols of the island chain by the end of Dec 20, 2017. They flew through the Miyako Strait, east of Taiwan and the Bashi Channel five times.

On Dec 18, 2017, the PLAAF carried out "island patrol" and round-trip flights to the Sea of Japan at the same time, the Asia-Pacific Defense reported.

The role of bombers cannot be ignored in sea training.

In the past, PLAAF that equipped with H-6 fighter bombers mainly used cross-sea tactics through inland fly trainings. However, with the advent of the later generation H-6K, maritime training is inevitable.

The H-6Ks crossed the Bashi Channel for the first time and conducted exploratory training in the western Pacific without the escort of fighter aircraft or electronic reconnaissance aircraft on Mar 30, 2015.

On May 2, 2015, the H-6Ks flew over the Miyako Strait in the same mode to complete the mission flight.

Since then, the PLAAF fleet with the H-6K as its core has flown systematically through these two "throat points" of the first island chain.

As noted by Chinese air force spokesman Senior Colonel Shen Jinke, the PLAAF flies over the island chain, controls the East China Sea, conducts combat patrols over the South China Sea, speeds up development of high-tech weapons and equipment, and promotes the strategic transformation of the Air Force from a quantitative to a qualitative mode.


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