According to satellite imagery, China appears to be using an unused civilian airport directly across the Strait of Taiwan to launch military overflights into the island’s Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZ). Imagery from October 2020 which appeared on Google Earth showed two Shaanxi KQ-200 anti-submarine warfare aircraft on what used to be the civil parking apron of Shantou-Waisha airport.
This closed civilian airport is less than 220 miles across the strait from the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan. Two similar aircraft were seen May 7, 2021, in another satellite photo, with one of these planes taxiing toward the runway.
— Defense News (@defense_news) October 28, 2021
According to images provided by Planet Labs to Defense News, other military aircraft seen at this airport include Chengdu J-7 (Chinese derivatives of old Russian MiG 21) interceptors seen on multiple occasions, apparently based there; and rotations of Russian Sukhoi Su-27/30 Flankers, or its Chinese derivatives, the Shenyang J-11/J-16.
Defense News notes that the “use of the base not only shortens transit times into the zone but also enables the PLA to attain faster access to and conduct training and/or patrols over the southern part of the Taiwan Strait, the northern part of the South China Sea and the Bashi Channel.”
But this isn’t the only airbase China is using.
Defense News reported that:
In addition to Shantou-Waisha, the PLA is also believed to be staging its flights over Taiwan’s ADIZ from the base of Huizhou-Huiyang. The base, which is also a civilian airport, has seen regular rotations of electronic warfare and surveillance aircraft based on the Y-8 and Y-9 airframes, including the KJ-500 airborne early warning aircraft.
The base also hosts occasional rotations of PLA tactical aircraft in addition to the two resident PLA Air Force regiments, which operate the Chengdu J-10 and Shenyang J-16 combat aircraft. These rotations have joined the former in flying inside Taiwan’s ADIZ, usually crossing into the zone flying from the west.
Xi’an JH-7 fighter-bombers were seen on satellite imagery of the base taken between late December 2020 and March 2021 that was published on Google Earth. The base is located about 300 miles west of the Taiwanese port city of Kaohsiung,
A pair of JH-7s subsequently made forays into Taiwan’s ADIZ on Feb. 19, and again the next day, marking two of just four occasions the type has done so since Taiwan began its daily reports. ADN