In the ongoing effort to intimidate the Taiwanese government, the Communist Chinese Air Force sent 39 warplanes, mostly fighter jets, to Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ). The largest air fleet dispatched to Taiwanese airspace since October 4, 2021, when 56 Chinese fighter jets entered the ADIZ. Taiwan officials have confirmed that this was the second-largest incursion on record.

The Chinese threat of invasion has been very real to the Taiwanese, with Chinese fighter jets coming in and out of Taiwanese air space without regard for its sovereignty. This series of aggressions by Communist China ramped up notably after Taiwanese President Tsai lng-wen took office in 2016, rejecting the one country, two systems proposal by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2019. The battle-hardened Taiwanese President has constantly pushed the narrative that Taiwan is a sovereign nation and will not be part of “one China” as the island nation leans toward a democratic society than their communist counterparts.

Chinese Warplanes Used

The Chinese Air Force, known as the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), sent 24 J-16 fighters, ten J-10 fighters, and one H-6 bomber.  (Note, the bomber was probably in company to do the overwater navigation which suggests that Chinese fighters do not have the equipment or pilot training to operate far from their bases)

Two J-16 fighter jets attached to an aviation brigade of the air force under the PLA Western Theater Command fly in a two-ship formation during a flight training exercise in southwestern China's Chongqing Municipality on early March 6, 2018 (Chinese Military). Source:
Two J-16 fighter jets attached to an aviation brigade of the air force under the PLA Western Theater Command fly in a two-ship formation during a flight training exercise in southwestern China’s Chongqing Municipality on early March 6, 2018 ( by Liu Chang and Liu Yinghua).

The Shenyang J-16, the most used fighter jet dispatched to Taiwanese air space in 2021, was derived from the Shenyang J-11, which was based on the Sukhoi Su-17 fighters from Russia. Equipped with active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, Shenyang WS-10A turbofan engines, advanced sensors, avionics, and long-range missiles, it is the Chinese’s most advanced fighter jet in its arsenal. It was also reported that the backseat co-pilot would be replaced by “intelligence victory,” an artificial intelligence algorithm.

The Shenyang J-11, on the other hand, is an air superiority fighter notably known for intercepting a US Navy Boeing P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine warfare aircraft in 2014, where it allegedly flew as close as 20 feet to the navy aircraft. The Chengdu J-10 is also a formidable multirole fighter that allegedly copied Israel’s, IAI Lavi. The Siberian Aeronautical Research Institute (SibNIA) stated that it was more or less a version of the Lavi. This would make sense as the SibNIA was directly involved with the Chinese Air Force during the aircraft creation.

Lastly, a Xian H-6 bomber would also be deployed with the fleet to Taiwan, a bomber known to have nuclear bombing capacity. The plane is said to be a copied version of the Soviet’s Tupolev Tu-16 twin-engine bomber.

Taiwanese Air Force response

The Taiwanese defense ministry stated that it sent fighters of its own to counter and track the large Chinese air force deployment. However, experts have said that Taiwan would need to maintain its own fleet of aircraft as its own F-16 fighter jets had been suffering from mechanical problems, with an F-16V crashing into the sea earlier this month.

It was unclear why China had unleashed one of the biggest incursions to date. However, it would likely be due to the US Navy sending the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Abraham Lincoln to the Philippine Sea, where the US Navy has been engaging in anti-submarine, air, and combat practice exercises with Japan. As is the practice of Beijing seeking to avoid a direct confrontation with the U.S.(Until it is fully ready) Chines responds to U.S. moves by putting pressure on our weaker allies in the region like Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines.