UPDATE: PLA deploys aircraft carrier, rockets, vessels, fighter jets, missiles in drills around Taiwan island
Published: Apr 08, 2023 03:46 PM Updated: Apr 09, 2023 12:04 AM
A Type 052C guided missile destroyer of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy sails near the island of Taiwan during the combat alert patrols and

A Type 052C guided missile destroyer of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy sails near the island of Taiwan during the combat alert patrols and "Joint Sword" exercises that encircle the island on April 8, 2023. Photo: Screenshot from China Central Television

Kicking off the encirclement combat alert patrols and "Joint Sword" exercises around the island of Taiwan, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command on Saturday pressured the island from all four directions by deploying an aircraft carrier, long-range rockets, vessels, fighter jets and conventional missiles.

Upon receiving orders, multiple military services and branches attached to the PLA Eastern Theater Command were quickly mobilized toward target regions and spread out in combat formations, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Saturday.

The first day of the exercise focused on testing the task force capabilities in seizing the control of the sea, air and information under the support of the joint combat system, as the forces simultaneously pushed forward to encircle the island, creating a suppressive situation in which the island is surrounded from all directions, CCTV reported.

According to a video viewed by the Global Times on Saturday morning, the Army deployed PHL-191 modularized multiple rocket launcher systems, the Navy sent a Type 052C destroyer, Type 22 missile boats and YJ-12B land-based anti-ship missiles, the Air Force sortied J-10C fighter jets, a KJ-500 early warning aircraft and a YU-20 tanker aircraft, and the Rocket Force mobilized DF-11 conventional ballistic missiles in the drills.

Other types of weaponry and equipment, including electronic warfare aircraft and bombers, are also expected to be part of the exercise.

A second video released on Saturday evening showed more details of the drills, including the participation of dozens of J-16 and J-10C fighter jets, the Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, the H-6K bomber, the Type 054A frigate and the DF-15 conventional ballistic missile.

During the drills, multiple PLA Navy destroyers and frigates quickly approached the island of Taiwan, took advantageous positions and practiced close-in assault, far-range deterrence and air defense, CCTV reported.

Guided and supported by early warning aircraft, electronic warfare aircraft and aerial tankers, Air Force fighter jets, carrying live munitions, conducted medium- and long-range air combat drills, CCTV reported. They used mixed and flexible formations together with tactics including jamming and positioned blocking to quickly search and eliminate opponents, seizing and control air superiority in the target regions.

In order to completely seize the advantage at the sea and in the air, warships and anti-submarine aircraft formed a network and held a successful joint anti-submarine exercise in waters near the island of Taiwan, according to the report.

Multiple artillery brigades of the Army and conventional missile brigades of the Rocket Force coordinated with the naval and air assault forces and carried out simulated attacks on targets in a move to test their rapid-response firepower and long-range precision strike capabilities, CCTV reported.

Zhao Xiaozhuo, a research fellow at China's Academy of Military Sciences, told the Global Times that the exercise is a large-scale, all-element drill featuring all military services and branches under a joint combat system.

The exercise is highly combat-oriented, with all weapons being live and radars turned on, Zhao said.

A clear goal of the drill is to seize control of information, including conducting electronic suppressions on the radar and anti-missile bases on the island of Taiwan, Zhao said.

The first detailed reports on the exercise came out in within only four hours after Senior Colonel Shi Yi, a spokesperson at PLA Eastern Theater Command, announced combat alert patrols and "Joint Sword" exercises in the Taiwan Straits, as well as the sea and air regions to the north, south, and east of the island of Taiwan from Saturday to Monday.

It showed the speed of the PLA's fast deployment as well as streamlined coordination between its different military services and branches, Song Zhongping, a Chinese mainland military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Saturday.

The weaponry and equipment involved in the drills, particularly those capable of delivering long-range strikes, can neutralize opposing forces on the island before they start engaging in combat, as well as deny access of external military reinforcements, Song said.

Zhao confirmed that the Shandong aircraft carrier group, now operating in the West Pacific waters southeast of the island of Taiwan according to the "defense authority" on the island of Taiwan and Japan's Ministry of Defense Joint Staff, is also a part of the exercise.

The drills, coming only one day after Taiwan regional leader Tsai Ing-wen returned to the island of Taiwan on Friday following her meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California on Wednesday local time, are being viewed by experts as a stern warning to "Taiwan independence" secessionist forces and their collusion with external forces, and a necessary move to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.