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Taiwan’s defence ministry says Beijing sent 39 military aircraft to the island’s air defence zone on Sunday - the biggest contingency since October. Photo:

Taiwan scrambles jets after Beijing sends 52 aircraft to island’s air defence zone in two days

  • On Sunday, 39 planes flew into the island’s ADIZ followed by 13 warplanes entering southwest of zone on Monday, according to Taiwan’s defence ministry
  • Sorties came after the US and Japan wrapped up a six-day joint maritime drill south of Okinawa
The People’s Liberation Army has sent 52 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defence zone in the past two days, prompting the island’s air force to scramble jets and aim missiles to disperse them.
According to Taiwan’s defence ministry, 13 warplanes – 10 J-16 fighter jets, two H-6 bombers and a Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft – entered the southwest of the island’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday.

The sorties followed 39 PLA warplanes – 34 fighter jets, four electronic warfare planes and a bomber – that flew into the island’s ADIZ on Sunday.


Taiwan holds urban, aerial combat drills amid threats of invasion by mainland China

Taiwan holds urban, aerial combat drills amid threats of invasion by mainland China

“In response, our air force scrambled jets, issued radio warnings and deployed air defence missile systems to monitor the activities of the PLA’s warplanes,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday.

Sunday’s sorties were the largest since October 4 when the PLA sent a record 56 warplanes to test Taiwan’s combat readiness.
A chart provided by the ministry on Monday showed that the Y-8 went through the Bashi Channel via the island’s southeast ADIZ and headed towards the West Pacific in what observers said could be a mission to gather intelligence after the United States and Japan staged a joint drill two days ago.
The other PLA planes, including the sorties on Sunday and Monday, flew in an area northeast of the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Island.

The fly-bys came soon after the US-Japan drill, which started on January 17, wrapped up.

Observers said the large-scale air manoeuvre was a show of force to Taiwan, the US and Japan.

“As soon as the United States and Japan wrapped up their joint drill near Okinawa, there came the sorties. Very likely the Chinese communists meant it for a show of firepower to the United States and Japan,” said Lin Ying-yu, a research fellow at the Association of Strategic Foresight, a Taipei think tank.

Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force said it finished a six-day joint drill with the US Navy in waters south of Okinawa prefecture on Saturday. It sent its destroyer Hyuga to join 10 US Navy vessels, including two aircraft carriers – the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Abraham Lincoln – as well as a destroyer and an amphibious assault ship in the drill.

As PLA threat grows, Taiwan’s bid to boost defence ‘may lead to conflict’

Chieh Chung, a senior researcher at National Policy Foundation, a think tank affiliated with the main opposition party, the Kuomintang, said Sunday’s fly-bys were concentrated in the southwest of the island’s ADIZ near Pratas and far from where the US and Japan held their joint drill.

“By keeping a distance, the PLA was careful to avoid triggering any unintended incident but at the same time it also wanted to send a signal to the US and Japan that it would not back off on issues relating to national sovereignty,” he said.

Chieh said that overall, intimidation of Taiwan from the fly-bys on Sunday was not as serious as the record sorties in October during which some PLA warplanes entered southeast of Taiwan’s air defence zone – a major point of access to the island’s eastern military zone.

The latest joint exercise came amid growing calls from US and Japanese politicians for their two countries to team up to come to Taiwan’s rescue should the PLA launch an attack against the island.

Warships and planes from the USS Carl Vinson and USS Abraham Lincoln and elements from the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force carry out joint drills off Okinawa last week. Photo: US Navy
On Friday, the leaders of the US and Japan agreed in a virtual meeting to boost cooperation on pressing economic and security issues, including Beijing’s growing military might, prompting a warning from Beijing.

Beijing considers Taiwan its territory that must be taken under its control, by force if necessary. It has suspended official contact with the self-ruled island since Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party was elected president in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle.

Fatigue from repeated Chinese sorties ‘contributed to Taiwan fighter jet crash’

In recent years, the PLA has sent warplanes to the island’s ADIZ almost daily as part of its strategy to ramp up pressure on Taiwan and test its air-defence system.

Taiwan’s military officials have admitted that the sorties put stress on their planes, forced the air force to spend more to keep its aircraft operating and exhausted its pilots.
On January 11, one of Taiwan’s advanced fighter jets crashed during a combat training mission, killing the pilot and prompting the air force to ground all F-16s for inspection before they resumed operation on Thursday.