PLA Air Force aircraft conduct a patrol exercise on Monday near Taiwan. The military says such drills are strategically important. (China Daily)
Chinese Air Force bombers and fighters conducted a regular patrol exercise over two strategic channels near Taiwan on Monday in an effort to further strengthen maneuverability and combat capability during far sea missions.
The formation consisted of H-6K bombers, Su-30 and J-11 fighter jets and reconnaissance, early warning and tanker aircraft, Senior Colonel Shen Jinke, spokesman for the People's Liberation Army Air Force, said at a meeting of senior Air Force officers. The meeting's key points were released on Tuesday.
The planes flew through the Bashi Channel between southern tip of Taiwan and the norther islands of the Philippines and the Miyako Strait between northern Taiwan and Japan, Shen said.
"Multiple bombers and reconnaissance planes have flown routes that circled the island of Taiwan, further improving their ability to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.
The exercise on Monday marked the ninth routine drill of Chinese military aircraft around Taiwan since August, according to Air Force records. The PLA Air Force first circled the island last December.
All exercises by the Air Force are in line with international laws and practices, and they have been conducted reasonably according to the regional situation, Shen said. The flight range of the PLA Air Force will expand farther over the sea, and a wider variety of planes will train together systematically in formation, he said.
The Air Force also will improve its aerial assault, defense, surveillance and logistic capabilities. "The Air Force is an important force in maintaining situations, managing crises and preventing and winning wars," Shen said.
"The Chinese Air Force is modernizing to become a strategic combat force capable of fighting in all of China's domain," he said. "We must expand our strategic outlook in systematic far-sea exercises, keep a sober mind, improve emergency awareness and safeguard strategic interests."
Lieutenant General Huang Guoxian, Air Force commander of the PLA Eastern Theater Command, said the Air Force must improve its combat capability through routine far sea exercises and uphold China's air defense identification zone in the East China Sea, according to Tuesday's news release.
"So when there is an emergency, we can react quickly and adamantly protect our national sovereignty, security and development interest," he said.
Lieutenant General Xu Anxiang, Air Force commander of the PLA Southern Theater Command, said the Chinese Air Force has been training more routinely and systematically in distant oceans and in the South China Sea during the past three years.
"Far sea training is a common practice among other air forces, and a necessary prerequisite for building a strong Chinese military," he said. "Senior Air Force officers must shoulder the load of preparing and fighting wars."