The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) reportedly dispatched 30 warplanes close to Taiwan on Monday, the same day a U.S. senator arrived on the island for a surprise visit, and also at the same time the U.S. Navy was holding dual carrier drills not far away from the region.
With most of the aircraft involved being fighter jets, the PLA practiced the seizure of air superiority and aerial strikes in a simulation of reunification-by-force, thus warning the parties involved in the U.S.-Taiwan collusion that the PLA has the capacity to launch a lightning-quick assault that would end the Taiwan question once and for all when necessary, experts told the Global Times on Tuesday.
The 30 PLA warplanes featured in the mission were two KJ-500 early warning aircraft, four Y-8 electronic intelligence aircraft, a Y-8 electronic warfare aircraft, a Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, six J-16 fighter jets, eight J-11 fighter jets, four J-10 fighter jets, two Su-35 fighter jets and two Su-30 fighter jets. The aircraft entered Taiwan’s self-proclaimed southwest air defense identification zone between the Dongsha Islands and the Taiwan island on Monday, said Taiwan’s defense authority on Monday.
Some of the fighter jets tend to being pure air superiority fighters, like the J-11 and the Su-35, while some others tend to being more of a multi-role type that can also launch attacks on ground and maritime targets, like the J-16 and the Su-30, the expert said. The expert noted that the special-mission aircraft can provide command and control as well as intelligence and electronic warfare support. All types of aircraft will join combat, and that is why they all need to train in drills, an expert said.
This was the second largest PLA aircraft activity in 2022, after 39 sorties on January 23. It also marked the first time in a long period that the PLA Air Force’s Su-35 has made a public reappearance, observers said.
On the same day, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth and her delegation arrived on the island of Taiwan for a surprise three-day visit. Duckworth is reportedly scheduled to meet with Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing-wen and others on Tuesday.
The PLA warplane activities also came shortly after two U.S. aircraft carriers, the USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS Ronald Reagan, reportedly held drills on May 28-29 in waters to the southeast of Okinawa. Chinese analysts say it could be the main maritime battlefield if the U.S. militarily intervenes in a possible conflict across the Taiwan Straits.
“Flight data released by Taiwan showed that the PLA likely practiced several waves of non-stop aerial strikes. Drills like this tell the island that when the PLA makes a real move, it will likely be a sudden attack that can put an end to the Taiwan question once and for all,” said Zheng Jian, director of the National Taiwan Studies Association and chair professor at the Taiwan Research Institute of Xiamen University.