China Pressures Taiwan in Weekend Jet Sorties

 - September 21, 2020, 12:25 PM
This PLAAF H-6K carrying YJ-12 anti-ship missiles was photographed from an intercepting ROCAF fighter. (Photo: Taiwan Ministry of National Defence)

In protests over the U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach’s visit to Taiwan, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) turned up the heat against Taiwan, consecutively carrying out military flights into its air defense identification zone, and testing the ability of the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) to respond to them.

As early as September 16, two Shaanxi Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft began carrying out drills over the Bashi Channel, southwest of Taiwan. On September 18, the day of Krach’s arrival, a pair of PLA Air Force Xian H-6K bombers was deployed to the Bashi Channel south of Taiwan with Shenyang J-16 fighters. They were joined by two flights of four Shenyang J-11s and Chengdu J-10s and another formation of J-16s, which flew beyond the Taiwan Straits median line. The H-6Ks, deployed from Anqing airbase, were also photographed carrying the rarely seen YJ-12 supersonic anti-ship missile. A day later, the PLA released a video showing a simulated cruise missile attack by the H-6Ks on what appeared to be the U.S. Air Force airbase at Guam.

Taiwanese media reported that the ROCAF scrambled at least 17 times in response to the infringement, with some of the F-16A/Bs armed with AIM-120 and AIM-7 Sparrow missiles while Dassault Mirage 2000s carried MICA and Magic missiles.

The PLA upped the intensity on the following day, launching 12 J-16s and pairs of J-10s, J-11s, and H-6s, on that occasion joined by a Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft over the Bashi Channel. In both cases, the Taiwan Ministry of National Defence added that ground-based air-defense systems were also involved in tracking and responding to the Chinese aircraft.

Krach’s visit was the first by a State Department official to Taiwan in more than 40 years, and it sparked outrage in Beijing. Officials there accused Washington of disregarding the “one China” policy. China regards Taiwan as a rogue province and has not discounted the possibility of retaking control of the island, by force if necessary.