Three hours ago, the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense reported that 30 land based aircraft of the Peoples Liberation Army had entered Taiwans Air Defense Identification Zone, prompting the Republic of China to scramble at least 10 fourth generation fighters to establish a combat air patrol off the southwest coast of the island nation. While these incursions happen daily, 30 aircraft and the specific composition of this flight is troubling for Taiwan.
While the aircraft did not violate Taiwanese airspace, the purpose of the ADIZ is for aircraft to declare their presence as friendly or foe so there is no miscommunication between ground based surface-to-air missile batteries and aircraft. Chinese aircraft routinely do not declare their intention or presence, forcing Taiwanese sorties to launch in order to discover the intentions of these aircraft. It is a routine used by Chinese planners to not only decrease Taiwanese aircraft readiness by forcing them to launch (and thus break), but also lull Taiwanese planners into a false sense of security and monitor the procedures of Taiwanese responses.
The Peoples Liberation Army Air Force KJ-500 is the primary airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platform for the Chinese military. Since ground based radars are usually limited to the horizon, the KJ-500 is a high value airborne target that provides long range indications and warnings but also air control intercept to Chinese aircraft. The dorsal mounted radome houses an advanced electronically scanned array (AESA) radar which has significantly longer line of sight ranging capability at such altitudes. Chinese pilots also rely heavily on air control intercept provided by these aircraft which give altitude and heading calls. 17 of these aircraft have been built so far for the Peoples Liberation Army.
The Y-8 is a medium size medium range transport aircraft produced by Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation in China, based on the Soviet Antonov An-12. It has become one of China’s most popular military and civilian transport/cargo aircraft, with many variants produced and exported. Although the An-12 is no longer made in Ukraine, the Chinese Y-8 continues to be upgraded and produced. An estimated 169 Y-8 aircraft had been built by 2010. The variants seen in todays incursion are the Electronics Intelligence Collection platform, equipped with sensors able to collect on Taiwanese radar and aircraft emissions, Electronic Warfare Platform, able to jam Taiwanese radars and missiles, and the Anti-Submarine Warfare Platform which carries a surface scanning radar, sonar buoys for detecting sub-surface targets, and torpedoes.
The J-16 is a fourth generation + fighter for the Peoples Liberation Army Air Force, it is a two seat interceptor capable of carrying a variety of munitions and also is equipped with an AESA radar. There have been 192 manufactured since 2019.
The J-11 is the Peoples Liberation Army fourth generation interceptor, designed from the Russian Su-27 FLANKER. China bought several Su-27s from the Soviet Union in the 1970s to replace its aging fleet of MiG-19s. There are approximately 440 of them in service.
The Su-35 is a 4th generation ++ multi-role fighter bought from the Russian Federation. In November 2015, China became the Su-35’s first export customer when the Russian and Chinese governments signed a contract worth $2 billion to buy 24 aircraft for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. The Su-35 represents the most advanced foreign bought aircraft in the Chinese inventory. The J-20 and the FC-31 represent the 5th generation fighters domestically created by China.
The Su-30 is a 4th generation + twin-engine, two-seat super-maneuverable fighter aircraft developed in the Soviet Union by Russia’s Sukhoi Aviation Corporation. It is a multirole fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and air interdiction missions. To better counter USAF’s expanding capabilities in the region, in 1996, an agreement worth US$1.8 billion was reached with Russia to purchase some 38 multirole combat aircraft based on the original Su-30 design. Taking into account China’s requirements for its new fighter, the aircraft became known as Su-30MKK (Modernizirovannyi Kommercheskiy Kitayski– Modernised Commercial Chinese)
While there were no H-6 bombers in this flight today, the presence of such capable interceptors, indicate the possible composition of a Chinese strike against Taiwan. Most experts agree that an overwhelming flight of hundreds of land based cruise missiles will initiate strikes against hard targets of the Taiwanese integrated air defense system. Simultaneously, flights such as this one would penetrate Taiwanese airspace to draw out any mobile systems that survive the initial strike, then engage assembly areas of Taiwanese ground troops and any surviving interceptors, much like how Russia conducted its February 24th, invasion.