Changes in China’s military flights around Taiwan may mean Chinese pilots are learning new tactics

A J-16 fighter jet during an air show in China’s northeastern Jilin province, October 17, 2019.

Observers point to increased presence of early-warning and electronic-warfare aircraft in combination with China’s fighter-bombers.
A strategy inspired by the US military connects and shares information between the latest combat platforms and older warplanes.

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Recent air force sorties by the People’s Liberation Army near Taiwan indicate the Chinese military may be training its pilots in new combat tactics, with a key role for the J-16 fighter bomber helped by early warning and electronic warfare aircraft, analysts said.

Military observers have noted an increased presence of the KJ-500 airborne early warning and control system (Awacs) and different generations of fighter jets, along with the multi-role J-16, during the PLA’s numerous approaches towards the self-ruled island in recent months.

The Y-8 series of anti-submarine and electronic warfare planes have also been involved in the intensified fly-by combinations, as well as J-11, J-10 and J-7 fighters and H-6 bombers, reaching a record 28 aircraft that entered Taiwan’s air defence zone on June 14.

The PLA has been conducting island-encirclement exercises since the 2016 re-election of Taiwanese president Tsai-Ing-wen from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party. Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province that must be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.

A KJ-500 airborne early warning and control system aircraft at Airshow China 2016, November 2, 2016.

Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at the Taiwanese Naval Academy in Kaohsiung, said the aircraft groupings showed the PLA was trying out a new tactic of cooperative and engagement capability (CEC) – inspired by the US military – which connects and shares information between the different combat platforms, with each one performing different roles during an engagement.

“In the PLA’s CEC scenarios, the KJ-500s may take responsibility for finding hostile targets, and then share the information with the J-16s to let the latter hit enemies because the Awacs aircraft themselves do not carry any weapons,” he said.

“Those incursions made by the KJ-500, J-15 and other aircraft around Taiwan appear to just have the island as their key target, but they mean the PLA is now able to challenge the US’s archipelagic defence strategy under its Indo-Pacific policy,” Lu said.

“It is necessary for the US to help Taiwan enhance its electronic warfare and electromagnetic spectrum operations capabilities … to prevent Beijing’s further military expansion in the region.”

Macau-based military expert Antony Wong Tong said the J-16 was specifically designed for a possible Taiwan attack, but needed to fight alongside the PLA’s current sole active J-20 stealth fighter and the J-10C lightweight fighter jet.

“The J-16 was developed to fill the gaps and any blindness left by the J-20s and other older generation fighter jets in dogfights,” Wong said. “The heavyweight fighter is a 4.5-generation jet intended to rival the US’s F-35A Lighting II, with a unit price of up to US$80 million.”

Wong said it was clear from academic journals published …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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