Here’s A Handy Recap Of What Has Happened (And Is Currently Happening) Around Taiwan

Chinese fighter jets take off for the exercises around Taiwan. In the boxes: the launch of a Chinese ballistic missile and a map of the movements across Taiwan Strait’s median line. (Photo: Chinese internet and Taiwan MoD)

China surrounded Taiwan with massive military exercises after the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Since the historic visit of the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan on August 3, 2022, the relations between the United States, China and Taiwan quickly started deteriorating. In fact, as retaliation, China inflicted heavy import/export trade restrictions on Taiwan, as well as sanctioning Pelosi and suspending/cancelling cooperation with the US on multiple topics. In addition to all of this, China started multiple exercises that completely surrounded the territory of Taiwan.

China strongly opposed the visit, even threatening to take action against Pelosi’s aircraft before she landed in Taipei. The aircraft was reportedly escorted by eight Taiwanese Mirage 2000 fighter jets, while unconfirmed sources claim that F-15Cs from Kadena Air Base (Japan) and F/A-18 from the USS Ronal Reagan were also in the area as a precaution following the Chinese threats.

The Boeing C-40C, callsign SPAR19, which was transporting the Speaker, also became the most-tracked flight of all time, crashing flight tracking websites because of the server overloads. On FlightRadar24 alone, 2.92 million users followed at least a portion of SPAR19’s flight between Kuala Lumpur and Taipei, while as many as 708,000 were following the C-40C as it landed.

On August 4, China began exercises in six different areas around Taiwan’s main island, with some of these areas reportedly extending until 12 km from the Taiwanese coasts and thus well over the Taiwan Strait’s median line, which usually is considered as a boundary. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force, Navy and Rocket Force are involved in the large-scale maneuvers that should continue at least until Sunday.

“The exercises focus on key training sessions including joint blockade, sea target assault, strike on ground targets, airspace control operation,” the Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command said in a statement. Waves of aircraft, missiles and ships were launched during the first two days, reaching new highs since last year.

During the first day of the exercises, the Rocket Force launched a total of 11 ballistic missiles, of which four landed in Taiwanese waters and at least one flew high over Taipei and landed in the Japanese EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), according to reports. The Japanese government said that five missiles fell in the EEZ, lodging diplomatic protest with the Chinese government.

The missiles were reportedly launched from inland China and the coastal provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang. The Chinese authorities claim they fired new versions of their Dongfeng missiles that hit targets in the Taiwan Strait with precision. As a result, merchant ships in the area have been forced to re-route and more than 50 international flights to/from Taiwan have been cancelled as precaution.

Multiple warships are also sailing in the strait, with as many as 13 reported by the Taiwanese Ministry of Defence on August 5. The ships crossed the Taiwan Strait’s median line several times, before being chased away by Taiwanese ships that were shadowing them in close proximity. These crossings have been going on for at least three consecutive days.

As for the aviation side of the exercises, the has been an increase in activity since Pelosi’s visit. According to the Taiwanese MoD, 27 aircraft entered the area in the vicinity of Taiwan on August 3 and 22 the next day. The aircraft involved were J-11, J-16 and Su-30 fighter jets, who crossed multiple times the meridian line and prompting the intervention of Taiwanese aircraft flying Combat Air Patrols. Su-35s were initially thought to be involved, but that claim was later denied by the MoD.

On August 5, a new record in activity was reached, beating the one from last year. A total of 68 Chinese aircraft were dispatched over the strait throughout the day, with 49 crossing the median line. This time the Flankers were not alone, as the list includes J-10 fighters and Y-8 turboprop aircraft in both Electronic Warfare and Anti-Submarine Warfare variants, in addition to the J-11, J-16 and Su-30 fighters.

Until now, the record of Chinese aircraft near Taiwan in a single day was 56, recorded in October 2021. According to Taiwan, 138 aircraft were sent by China near the island during the last four days, a spike in activity which the US are considering an overreaction by China and Taiwan is considering as an unprovoked escalation which violates the country’s sovereignty and is causing tensions in the entire Indo-Pacific region.

The United States are not standing idle either. The USS Ronald Reagan and other ships in the region have been ordered to stay on station and monitor the situation, with the Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying the US military would continue to fly, sail, and operate in the area in accordance with international law. Multiple ISR aircraft, including P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft, RC-135S Cobra Ball, RC-135V Rivet Joint, E-3G Sentry AWACS and U-2S Dragon Lady have been tracked in the area by OSINT sources.

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.