At the wake of USS Lassen’s historic patrol within 12 nautical miles from one of China’s claimed maritime features in the South China Sea, China sends armed jet fighters to the Spratlys. The fighters apparently have taken part in a live-fire exercise in the region.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) have flown armed Shengyang J-11 Flankers over the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on October 30, 2015. The Chinese liberation army navy have released photos of the aircraft on its official website but did not elaborate on where those fighters were operating from.
The Chinese fighter jets appear light armed in the photographs. Also from the same set of photos, the J-11s appear to carry PL-12 medium range active radar-guided missiles and a pair of PL-8 infrared homing missiles.
Although it is not clear where the fighter jets originated from, Chinese General Xu Guangyu shares with South China Morning Post that Chinese J-11 fighter jets may have taken off from Woody Island in the Paracels. The Chinese General believes that the island has operational runways. Xu reiterates that the exercises intends to send a message.
“It’s a signal China sent to the U.S. that it is serious about its claims.”
General Xu Guangyu tells the South China Morning Post that:
“This is the minimum level of response China should have, or it will fail the expectation of its people.”
However, Xinhua, the official state-run Chinese new agency, downplays the reports. Shen Jinke, spokesperson for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), tells the Chinese News Agency that “Organizing drills is a common practice for all countries’ militaries. The Chinese army holds a series of regular exercises every year with the goal to improve real combat capabilities to cope with various security threats and safeguard national sovereignty and security.”
“Organizing drills is a common practice for all countries’ militaries. The Chinese army holds a series of regular exercises every year with the goal to improve real combat capabilities to cope with various security threats and safeguard national sovereignty and security.”
Dave Majumdar, defense editor for The National Interest, speculates that “the drills could be part of a larger Chinese move to bolster their territorial claims in the South China Sea” and that it “could be a precursor to China making an attempt to enforce a future Air Defense Identification Zone over South China Sea.”
“The drills could be a precursor to China making an attempt to enforce a future Air Defense Identification Zone over South China Sea.”
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Majumdar cautions that “These exercises are probably only the first step. Beijing will probably take further actions in the coming weeks to reinforces its claims in the region.”
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