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China warplanes "rain down thousands of munitions in South China Sea exercise", said China press

Valerie Mai Valerie Mai

mnghonganh@gmail.com

May 26, 2021 | 15:08

China's state-backed "Global Times" said on May 24 that the People's Liberation Army had conducted a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea.

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China warplanes
A fighter jet attached to an aviation brigade with the navy under the PLA Southern Theater Command takes off for an around-the-clock training exercise on April 20, 2021. Photo: China Military Online

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy announced on Monday that it recently conducted a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea, in which warplanes rained down thousands of munitions at maritime targets as the pilots enhanced their sea assault and precision strike capabilities, said Global Times on May 24.

However, the report did not specify the exact location where the warplanes participated in the exercise.

A brigade attached to the PLA Southern Theater Command Naval Aviation Force organized JH-7 fighter bombers for a live-fire shooting exercise at a maritime target range in the South China Sea, with the focus being precision attacks and saturation attacks, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Monday.

According to Airforce Technology, Xian JH-7 or Jian Hong-7 is a twin-engine, lightweight fighter bomber aircraft designed and manufactured by Xian Aircraft Industry Corporation, China to meet the requirements of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Its NATO reporting name is Flounder. The JH-7 is equipped with Type 232 H Eagle Eye multi-function fire-control radar, which tracks target information of YJ-8 (C-801) subsonic anti-ship missiles from a maximum distance of 70km to 100km. It also offers fixed air to air and navigation capabilities.

China warplanes
YJ-8 (C-801) subsonic anti-ship missiles. (Photo: Weapon System)

Several dozen warplanes participated in the drill, as they penetrated defense lines by skimming the sea at low altitudes, firing rockets and cannon rounds, and dropping aerial bombs on maritime targets, the CCTV report said, noting that several thousand pieces of munitions were unloaded. The exercise boosted the pilots' skills in sea assaults and precision strikes, CCTV reported.

While the announcement came only a few days after a US warship trespassed into Chinese territorial waters in the region, analysts said that it was not a targeted response. The PLA's training and combat preparations are not only for deterrence but also for actually winning war should it take place at any time, analysts said.

The analysts were referring to USS Wilbur Curtis' freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) around the China-controlled Paracel Islands last Thursday - five days after the South Sea Fleet's drills had concluded. USS Wilbur Curtis, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer operating under the U.S. Seventh Fleet, according to Newsweek.

A statement from U.S. 7th Fleet claimed that the FONOP was in accordance with international law. The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States military will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows," it said.

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Valerie Mai