China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) flew six Xian H-6K long-range bombers over the Miyako Strait close to Japanese islands on July 13, Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced in a press release.
The Miyako Strait is located between the Japanese islands of Miyako and Okinawa and to the northeast of Taiwan. The strait is the major gateway for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to the Pacific Ocean.
The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) has dispatched an unknown number of fighter jets in response to the incident. According to the Japanese MoD, the Chinese bombers did not violate Japanese airspace.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) said that the Chinese bombers flew just outside its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) and that it had ‘closely followed’ the movements.
The Chinese defense ministry said it was ‘legal and proper’ for its military aircraft to operate in the airspace and that it would continue to organize regular training exercises according to ‘mission requirements’. ‘The relevant side should not make a fuss about nothing or over-interpret, it will be fine once they get used to it,’ the ministry said in a statement.
China and Japan have also been locked in a dispute over the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.
China has carried out similar drills in the area in September, November, and December. In all instances the JASDF dispatched fighter jets. According to the Japanese MOD, the JASDF scrambled its fighter jets 1,168 times in fiscal year 2016, up from 873 in 2015.
Xian H-6 (Chinese: 轰-6; pinyin: Hōng-6) is a licence-built version of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 twin-engine jet strategic bomber, built for PLAAF by Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation (XAC).
In 2007, the PLAAF introduced the bomber’s latest variant, H-6K, fitted with a more powerful and fuel-efficient engines and modern electronics and capable of carrying air-launched cruise missiles. According to United States Department of Defense, this will give the PLAAF a long range standoff offensive air capability with precision-guided munitions (PGM).
The bomber can carry a payload of up to 12 tons. The H-6K can carry up to seven YJ-12 supersonic anti-ship missiles or CJ-20 subsonic land-attack cruise missiles.
China is estimated to currently operate around 120 of the aircraft. (Source: Wikipedia)