Ongoing tension in the South China Sea has reached a new tempo as China sends some flankers into contested claims. This comes as the US sends a rebuke to all China claims as illegal.
Before this reaction of China, when the US initially sent the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Nimitz, and Ronald Reagan for combined naval exercises, it included Air Force and submarine units that trained how to deal in a wartime situation that China belched at, reported Forbes.
On July 15, evidence of four jets sent to one of the reclaimed bases emerged, several of these islands can host several aircraft. Transfer of these PLA Air Force flankers came after U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, dismissed illegal claims of Beijing. This sets the stage for a tenser showdown in the waters occupied by the US Navy and the PLA Navy holding exercise.
Chinese Flankers are illegal copies of the Su-27
So far, the inventory of the PLA Air Force has the J-11 that was reverse-engineered by Beijing without Soviet consent. The J-11 is claimed to be close to the F-15 Eagle of the US Air Force. Versions reverse-engineered from the Su-27 are several in the PLA Air force inventory. Most Flanker versions are hard to tell apart based on the photos that capture them, but they are Flankers, no doubt.
One of the biggest problems of the PLA Air Force is the distance these planes have to go. In-flight, they may need to drop tanks to extend the flight range. The sending over the J-11 means sacrificing some armament for more range. It is a handicap with few aerial tankers at the PLAs disposal.
The J-11s were sent to the Paracel Islands
This island chain has been militarized by Beijing, with installations on it to support a fleet of ships with a small number of planes as well. Despite control by Beijing, there are claims by Vietnam and Taiwan. Facilities have been upgraded to accommodate fighters and bombers to serve as an airbase in the SCS.
Its just the start of establishing an ADIZ (air defense identification zone) that will cover part of the SCS and interdict US Naval Forces. Another is to exert control in the air, just like in the sea that other neighbors are chaffing against intrusions.
Pompeo stated that the communist overreaching claims are for total control. Having planes in the Paracels gives Beijing an advantage without the US blunting them.
Sino J-11s were discovered by OPSINT (open-source intelligence) analysts with low-resolution commercial satellite sources. One Twitter user Duan Deng shared an image on Thursday with verification from Airbus.
Beijing is getting fidgety
Sending over the J-11s is connected to several recent developments of late. One is the US taking a tougher stance on the communist party's expansionism. Next is the deployment of two carrier strike groups to the Indo-Pacific in one of the biggest naval exercises that included US allies. Last, is the FONOPs of USS Ralph Johnson recently to challenge China.