In recent months Chinese military aircraft have increasingly violated Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) as part of its Gray Zone operations. This is, among other things, an apparent attempt to repeatedly demonstrate China’s belief that Taiwan is a province of China and there is no legally binding line between Taiwan and mainland China.
In response, the U.S. has ramped up its military ties to the democratic island and increased its own military operations in the area. Last week was the latest show of support. Two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers were seen on Friday to the east of the island nation.
The National Interest noted:
The U.S. bombers, which had departed from Andersen Air Force Base (AFB) in Guam, headed northwest on a course for the East China or South China Seas. According to additional reports via social media, two KC-135R Stratotrankers refueled the American bombers during the flight, which was an indication that these were on a long-distance mission.
These supersonic strategic bombers are particularly menacing to China. They have recently been tested launching AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, from an external pylon on its fuselage in December. This paves the way for the B-1 bomber to carry hypersonic missiles very soon.
Earlier in 2020 the B-1 also test-launched the latest Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) to counter China’s growing naval fleet. As Peter Sucio notes:
The B-1B has the largest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory. It can rapidly deliver massive quantities of precision and non-precision weapons against any adversary, anywhere in the world, at any time.
But these B-1 bombers weren’t the only aircraft in the area. As Sucio adds:
…a Chinese Shaanxi Y-9 reconnaissance aircraft was also spotted in the East China Sea heading in a southwesterly direction. The “spy plane” crossed the Miyako Strait before turning west, where it then headed toward the eastern sector of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) off the coast of Hualien County. Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) fighter jets were scrambled to intercept and escort the Chinese Y-9.
Additionally, on Monday, a Chinese Shaanxi Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft also crossed into Taiwan’s ADIZ. This was the thirteenth day in a row Chinese aircraft have violated the island’s ADIZ.
The situation near Taiwan is increasingly tense as China continues to bully and threaten Taiwan. But under the Trump administration the U.S. has made it abundantly clear that the U.S. stands by its Taiwanese ally.
Let’s hope the incoming Biden administration will do the same.