PLA sorties in Taiwan Straits routine, not related to island missile test: experts

By Liu Xuanzun Source: Global Times Published: 2020/9/9 18:53:41

A group of J-10 fighter jets attached to an aviation brigade of the air force under the PLA Southern Theater Command taxi in close formation on the flightline before takeoff for a flight training exercise under unfavorable meteorology conditions in mid August, 2020.Photo:China Military

Multiple fighter jets of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Wednesday approached the island of Taiwan, the island's defense authority said, as Taiwan media said the PLA mission is the most intense this year, and speculated that it was aimed at "disrupting" the island's air defense missile test launch.

The PLA warplane sorties were likely part of routine patrol and not necessarily related to the island's missile test, as the Taiwan missile is a very weak one that cannot concern the PLA as Taiwan media suggested, Chinese mainland military experts said on Wednesday.

PLA warplanes, including the Su-30 and J-10, entered the "aerial reflex zone" southwest of Taiwan on Wednesday morning, Taiwan-based Liberty Times Net reported on Wednesday afternoon, citing a statement by the island's defense authority.

A previous report by Liberty Times Net on Wednesday morning claimed that the military on the island made at least 24 radio broadcasts in an attempt to "drive away" the PLA aircraft, which flew from 1,500 meters to 9,000 meters high.

This is the most number of times this year that the island had made such broadcasts, the report said, which also claimed the PLA likely meant to provoke the island's military over its scheduled missile launch test the same day.

The report said the island planned to test-fire artillery and missiles with the highest trajectory altitude of "infinite" on Wednesday and Thursday, which led observers to believe the test featured the island's indigenous Tien Kung III air defense missile.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese mainland military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the PLA sorties are likely part of routine and normal patrols, and are not necessarily related to the island's missile test.

If the PLA sent Y-8 electronic reconnaissance aircraft, it can gather the Tien Kung III's electromagnetic signals, so the PLA can apply electromagnetic interference when needed. In this case, fighter jets like the Su-30s and J-10s are mainly used for combat patrol, Song said.

The PLA needs to further familiarize itself with the air, sea and land areas to boost combat preparedness, he said.

Citing a military enthusiast on the island of Taiwan, Taiwan media claimed the island's indigenous weapons are making the Chinese mainland "uneasy," which led to the PLA sorties on Wednesday.

Song said that Tien Kung III was based on the basic version of the US Patriot missile, and its reliability and combat capability are low. It is very questionable if it can function properly with strong electromagnetic interference.

The missile's ability to intercept ballistic missiles is also very limited, Song said.

In April and June, Taiwan tested the Tien Kung III twice, and both times ended in failure, Taiwan media reported.

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