PLA bombers practice maritime strike amid foreign provocations in S. China Sea
Published: Feb 24, 2021 05:49 PM

A H-6 strategic bomber attached to a bomber regiment of the naval aviation force under the PLA Southern Theater Command takes off for a recent realistic flight training exercise. ( by Gao Hongwei)

At least 10 bombers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theater Command recently held maritime strike exercises in a move that showed China has more than anti-ship ballistic missiles to deter hostile vessels, analysts said on Wednesday. The drills come at a time when countries from outside the region, including the US and France, are making provocations in the South China Sea.

A bomber regiment affiliated with the PLA Southern Theater Command Naval Aviation Force organized for more than 10 bombers of two types to carry out maritime assault and strike exercises after the Spring Festival holidays ended last week, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Tuesday.

The drills featured missile attacks on maritime targets and other training objectives with tactical scenarios, and tested the combat coordination capability between new and veteran pilots, CCTV quoted Li Haitao, commander of the bomber regiment, as saying.

Judging from the report footage, military observers identified the two types of bombers as the H-6J, the PLA Navy's most advanced bomber, which is  reportedly capable of carrying six anti-ship cruise missiles and is equipped with extra electronic countermeasure pods, and the H-6G, an older generation naval bomber that can carry four missiles.

Both types of bombers were officially introduced by China's Ministry of National Defense in July last year, when the two types of planes conducted intensive round-the-clock drills in the South China Sea, shortly after the US sent a dual aircraft carrier strike group to the region for exercises earlier that month.

Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie told the Global Times at the time that the bombers' deployment in the South China Sea is significant in terms of suppressing US military provocations, thanks to its outstanding naval combat capabilities.

The latest exercises also took place on a similar occasion, after US' Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group conducted dual carrier operations with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group in the South China Sea on February 9.

The US is not the only country from outside of the region dispatching warships to the South China Sea. 

France also sent the amphibious assault ship Tonnerre and the frigate Surcouf last week, as they are scheduled to transit the South China Sea twice, Paris-based reported on February 18. Foreign media have been reporting that the UK is also planning to deploy an aircraft carrier strike group to the South China Sea.

The PLA's bomber exercises are likely routine and not targeting any country, and showed that China has a huge military advantage in the South China Sea, as the PLA can safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity not only with its anti-ship ballistic missiles, but also with attacks from bombers, warships and submarines, a military expert told the Global Times on Wednesday, requesting anonymity.

The US is attempting to contain China by rallying its Western allies to the South China Sea, but this will be nothing more than grinding for presence and has no military significance, the expert said. "Nevertheless, the PLA will be prepared."