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A J-10B carrying PL-10 and PL-12 air-to-air missiles landing at Zhuhai Jinwan airport ahead of Airshow China 2018. (Source: Alert5/Wikimedia Commons)
On Wednesday, the government announced that 19 Chinese aircraft had been spotted in Taiwan’s air defense zone.
The Taiwanese government noted that this had been the second day of a considerable number of Chinese aircraft breaching its air defense zone. The defense ministry stated that 21 planes had been detected within the last day, part of Beijing’s ongoing military pressure campaign.
Taiwan has been voicing its discontent with the Chinese military’s increased presence surrounding the island for several years as China attempts to exercise its sovereignty rights over the region.
The Chinese government has defended its actions in the region, stating they are necessary to safeguard its sovereign borders and to caution the US against any cooperation with Taiwan. However, this has yet to be well-received by those in Taipei.
The Ministry of Defense in Taiwan reported that a squadron of 17 J-10 and 4 J-16 fighter planes flew into the southwestern area of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, a map of which was given along with the statement.
The J-10s, which have been operational for around twenty years, flew nearer to the Chinese shore than those of Taiwan, while the more modern and sophisticated J-16s flew in the vicinity of the Pratas Islands, which are held by Taiwan, as per the map.
Situated in the South China Sea, the Pratas Islands have minimal fortification and are strategically placed near many of China’s fly-bys.
In response to Chinese incursions, the ministry stated that Taiwan’s forces kept a watchful eye on the situation, including sending their air force planes, as per their usual protocol.
China’s J10s and J16s
In recent months, China has significantly increased its military presence and activities near Taiwan, with the most notable development being the deployment of fighter jets into Taiwan’s air defense zone. This includes the deployment of seventeen J-10s and four J-16s which could become a destructive force against Taiwan’s defense structure. These new fighter jets can engage in air-to-air combat, ground attack operations, and aerial reconnaissance missions. Moreover, their advanced technology and long-range capabilities pose an existential threat to Taiwan’s already precarious defense structure.
China is likely aiming to use these combat jets to intimidate Taiwanese forces by displaying their active presence while also sending a strong signal to the United States that any cooperation with Taiwan will not be tolerated. China’s increasing military activity is a response to growing US support for Taiwan in recent years, including arms sales and increased diplomatic ties between the two countries. This move by China further demonstrates how serious it is about asserting its claim over Taiwan, signaling that any effort from Washington DC or Taipei would be met with solid resistance from Beijing.
The J-10 fighter jet was developed by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and is equipped with advanced avionics, radar, and weapon systems capable of engaging multiple targets at once. It has a maximum speed of Mach 1.8 and can carry up to 8 000kg of external payload, including air-to-air missiles and bombs. This makes it ideal for missions involving precision strikes, air superiority, and close air support roles. Furthermore, its maneuverability allows it to reach supersonic speeds within seconds, making it an effective tool for quickly engaging enemy targets.
Although the J-16 multirole fighter jet has similar capabilities to the J-10, the most significant asset lies in its ability to conduct long-range raids without refueling mid-flight due to its large fuel capacity. It can also carry more ordinance than the former model, giving it greater combat power in critical situations. In addition, its robust electronic warfare systems allow it to intercept hostile communications or jam radar signals, thus disrupting enemy operations further away from Taiwan’s shoreline.
As part of their strategy, Chinese military analysts are advocating for an aggressive approach toward Taiwanese air defenses using the country’s new fleet of fighter jets. Using these aircraft as a show of force and superiority over Taiwan’s outdated equipment and personnel training could be enough to deter future conflicts with Taipei without directly engaging in open hostilities. If successful, this could further strengthen Beijing’s claims on the island nation while ensuring that its rival does not receive further external support or aid to maintain parity between them militarily.
However, we here at SOFREP warn against this approach due to the potential blowback of such bold tactics from regional allies and international powers such as the United States and Japan, who both have interests in maintaining peace in the region. Additionally, utilizing these fighters offensively may invite retaliatory strikes from regional actors who fear for their safety if China successfully takes control of Taiwanese airspace without significant resistance from other actors nearby.
Ultimately it remains unclear what path China will take when it comes to deploying its newly acquired fighter jets near Taiwanese airspace, but one thing is sure. If they choose an aggressive course, this could lead to disastrous results for those involved and regional stability as a whole. So, for now, Taiwan-China international relations must hold to avoid any escalation between parties while simultaneously addressing the underlying issue between them.
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