All means, even the mildest, will be used by mainland China to obtain, according to President Xi Jinping’s formula, “Peaceful reunification” with democratic Taiwan. But in recent weeks, it is the air force of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) that Beijing has used to show its unwavering determination. A huge demonstration was started in the sky, in two directions.
Military first: a record number of planes, and especially new aircraft, have been dispatched to the southwest of the Taiwan Defense Identification Zone. With 149 aircraft launched to the island of 1is October (China’s national holiday) to October 4, the pressure has never been so obvious. In 2020, the PLA had sent 380 planes; the year 2021 is not over and the figure is already rising to 672.
With these flights, the Chinese Air Force acquires intelligence and rode many modern combat platforms. This is the case with its KJ-500 early warning aircraft, the equivalent of a NATO Awacs, intended to command a large operation from the air and neutralize Taiwanese defenses – official information claims that the The device can track hundreds of targets simultaneously.
A superstar general at the head of the air force
In addition to its J-16 fighters, Beijing also trains its H-6 long-range bombers capable of precision strikes, which have a nuclear version. The Y-8 ASW patrol vessel, intended to detect submarines, is systematically part of the squadrons. At the end of August, another first, a Harbin Z9 anti-submarine warfare helicopter had entered southwest of the identification zone.
The demonstration was also industrial, on the occasion of the Zhuhai Airshow, from September 28 to October 3: new high altitude and long endurance drones for reconnaissance (WZ-7) and attack (CH-6), fighter J-16D intended for electronic warfare against Taiwanese defenses, J-20 bomber equipped with its first national engine (it was Russian until now).
In a long portrait published on September 24, the magazine The Diplomat recalled that the Air Force had been commanded since September by a young 54-year-old superstar general, Chang Dingqiu. This fighter pilot is reputed to have “A daring approach to training”, he took care of the modernization of the PLA, and as a member of the new staff of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party, “He is the first to have experience in the supervision of joint operations”.