PLA warplanes featured in drills in Taiwan Straits ‘capable of seizing air superiority and command of sea’
Published: Sep 20, 2020 07:44 PM

A fighter jet attached to an aviation regiment under the PLA Air Force soars into the air during a night flight training exercise in late June, 2020. ( by Tang Huaihui)

In two consecutive days of military drills in the Taiwan Straits on Friday and Saturday, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) reportedly conducted nearly 40 sorties featuring four major types of warplanes - air superiority fighters, multirole fighters, bombers and an anti-submarine warfare aircraft, which Chinese mainland analysts said on Sunday are capable of seizing air superiority and command of the sea over the island of Taiwan and in the Straits.

Two H-6 bombers, eight J-16 fighters, four J-10 fighters and four J-11 fighters on Friday, and 12 J-16 fighters, two J-10 fighters, two J-11 fighters, two H-6 bombers and one Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft on Saturday crossed the "middle line" of the Taiwan Straits, according to two press releases by Taiwan's defense authority on Friday and Saturday.

Media on the island reported that the PLA continued its sorties in the Taiwan Straits on Sunday, but the island's defense authority reportedly claimed "no anomaly was noticed."

Chinese mainland military analysts pointed out that the warplane combination the PLA deployed in the exercises is very accurate to a real combat situation and covers many different scenarios. 

J-10 and J-11 fighters are mainly used in combat against hostile aircraft, H-6 bombers are mainly used to attack warships and ground facilities, J-16 fighters are multirole and can tackle all aerial, maritime and land targets, and the Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft can locate and attack enemy submarines, a mainland military expert who asked for anonymity told the Global Times on Sunday.

According to Taiwan's defense authority, PLA air superiority fighters, namely the J-10s and J-11s, operated to the northwest of the island close to Hsinchu and Taichung, where the island's Mirage 2000 and F-CK-1 fighters are based. The simulated missions by the J-10s and J-11s were probably aimed at neutralizing any remaining Taiwan warplanes there that had made their way into the air after surviving potential PLA missile and artillery strikes on Taiwan military airfields, analysts said.

Several J-16 fighters, probably equipped with not only air-to-air missiles, but also anti-ship missiles and ground attack weapons, reportedly operated to the north of the island, near Taipei, Keelung and Yilan, where the political center and some of the naval bases of the Taiwan island are located.

The other J-16s found themselves to the southwest of the island, near the H-6 bombers and the Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft. Analysts expect the J-16s to deal with Taiwan F-16 and F-CK-1 fighters based in Chiayi and Tainan, while also escort and cooperate with the H-6s in eliminating Taiwan warships based in Penghu and Kaohsiung with anti-ship missiles if necessary.

Taiwan has fewer than 30 main battle surface combatants, and the two H-6 bombers each carrying four YJ-12 anti-ship missiles plus the eight to 12 J-16s each carrying two to four YJ-83 anti-ship missiles in addition to air combat armaments can prove to be devastating to the island's naval force, the anonymous expert said.

The Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft could clear the Straits of submarines and, together with PLA minesweeping vessels, it could pave paths for the PLA landing forces, analysts said.

Starting Friday, the PLA Eastern Theater Command is conducting real combat-oriented exercises near the Taiwan Straits, Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang, a spokesperson at the Ministry of National Defense, told the Global Times at a press conference on Friday.

The move, which targets the current cross-Straits situation, is a legitimate and necessary action the mainland has taken to protect its sovereignty and integrity, Ren said.

The PLA's live-fire exercises came when US Undersecretary of State Keith Krach is paying a visit to Taiwan island. Recently, the US has ramped up efforts in playing the Taiwan card and escalated provocations on military and diplomacy.

Analysts said the PLA drills this time are not a warning, but a rehearsal for a Taiwan takeover.