Category Archives: China

U.S. F/A-18Es performed an airborne change of command in the skies near the disputed South China Sea islands

Airborne change of command U.S. Navy-style over South China Sea.

On Mar 7, revitalizing a time-honored naval tradition, three F/A-18E Super Hornets assigned to the Warhawks of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 97 executed an airborne change of command overhead USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) as Cmdr. Doug Peterson was relieved by Cmdr. Matt Doyle as commanding officer.

As the aircraft carrier was sailing in the South China Sea the three “Rhinos” (as the Super Hornets are dubbed by their aircrews) performed a symbolic formation lead change with Capt. Richard Brophy, Commander, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, presiding over the transfer of leadership while a flight deck full of Warhawk Sailors and other spectators watched below.

Stennis South China Sea

On Mar. 9, the USS John C. Stennis left the South China Sea where it had been dispatched five days earlier for a freedom of navigation exercise.

As reported by NavyTimes.com, with China claiming most of the islands of the region, many experts believe that the aircraft carrier was dispatched in the area to perform a deliberate show of force to emphasize U.S. Navy’s right to operate in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

The Pentagon stated that the Stennis entered the South China Sea twice, while crusing towars and back from joint exercises with South Korea.

VFA-97 Super Hornet

Noteworthy, during the transit in the South China Sea the USS John C. Stennis was followed by People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships which remained in the vicinity of the U.S. Navy carrier.

However according to a U.S. Navy press release the interactions with the Chinese Navy were professional.

Moreover in an effort to reduce tensions in the area the USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (CSG) command ship Blue Ridge will visit China later this spring where 7th Fleet head Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin will hold talks with his counterparts about the chance to increase communication between the two countries to avoid confrontations at sea.

Stennis Disputed Waters

Image credit: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago and Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tomas Compian / U.S. Navy

While B-2s deploy to the Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. is considering moving B-1 bombers to Australian soil

U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific theatre grows.

On Mar. 10, the U.S. announced the deployment of three Air Force B-2 stealth bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing, from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to the Asia-Pacific region amid growing tensions with North Korea.

Although the U.S. Air Force has not disclosed where the aircraft will be based, it is quite likely that the aircraft will operate out of Andersen Air Force Base, in Guam, strategically located in the Pacific, that has already hosted U.S. bombers involved in extended deterrence missions in the region.

On the previous day, Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force, told to Reuters that the U.S. could deploy long-range bombers to Australia as concerns over China’s military expansion in the Asia-Pacific area continue to grow.

In fact, as reported by FoxNews.com, high-level discussions are in progress to deploy B-1 bombers in northern Australia and to expand B-52 bomber missions in the region, even if details such as the duration of the rotations and the number of personnel involved are still being hammered out.

Pickart added that these deployments would not only provide training opportunities for U.S. airmen but they would also deliver Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Pacific Command leaders “a credible global strike and deterrence capability to help maintain peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”

The talks about the chance to rotate bombers through northern Australia come in the wake of a freedom of navigation exercise conducted by the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) and its Carrier Strike Group (CSG) in the South China Sea, where China is militarizing the region to guard its excessive territorial claims.

However an agreement between the two nations about bomber rotations in Australia would put USAF B-1B Lancers within striking distance of the South China Sea, most likely a move that would add more pressure on China, as already highlighted by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei “Cooperation among relevant countries should protect regional peace and stability, and not target the interests of third parties.”

Noteworthy while the U.S. Air Force conducts B-52 missions from Australia periodically, doesn’t fly any B-1s from there.

Moreover, as we have explained, this is not the first time that U.S. take in consideration the chance to base the Lancers on the Australian continent, but any previous rumour about this possibility never turned into the real thing.

Nevertheless an eventual deployment of the B-1B in Australia could finally bring back the Lancer in the Pacific Region.

In fact, unlike the B-52 and the B-2, the B-1B has been taken out from the Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) rotation at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base because it can’t carry any kind of nuclear weapon.

On the contrary giving its conventional bombing role the Bone has been heavy tasked in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

B-1B Australian soil

Image credit: Senior Airman Kate Maure and Airman 1st Class Peter Thompson / U.S. Air Force

 

 

Two U.S. B-52 skirt Chinese-controlled man-made island in the South China Sea sparking Chinese protest

Two American Stratofortress bombers flew within 12 miles of the disputed islands.

On Dec. 10, two U.S. Air Force B-52 strategic bombers on a routine long-range mission flew within 12 nautical miles (the standard boundary of the territorial waters) of one of the seven Chinese man-made islands in the South China Sea, sparking China’s protests.

Although Washington has not taken an official stance on sovereignty claims surrounding the islands it does maintain that China’s new islands do not enjoy the traditional 12NM territorial limit. However, according to the Pentagon, the aircraft were not flying a so-called “freedom of navigation” mission (a pre-planned navigation used to assert U.S. rights to “innocent passage” in or close to other nation’s territorial waters): one of the aircraft flew within 2 miles of an artificial island along unintentional route. Interesting, since “navigation errors” are a bit surprising on long-range bombers equipped with redundant GPS, INS systems that should make their navigation quite accurate.

Noteworthy, according to the Associated Press, the B-52 strategic bombers and that they issued radio warnings demanding the aircraft leave the area after the intrusion: last month, a Russian Su-24 bomber that allegedly ignored the radio warnings issued by a Turkish Air Force radar station was shot down by a TuAF F-16 after violating the Turkish airspace near the border with Syria.

China’s Defense Ministry considers the U.S. mission in the vicinity of the islands a serious military provocation and a deliberate attempt at raising tensions in the region.

U.S. B-52 and B-2 bombers routinely fly nuclear deterrence missions in the Asia-Pacific theater. In November 2013, a flight of two U.S. B-52 bombers departed from Guam airbase entered the new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over East China Sea close to the disputed islands without complying with any of the rules set by Beijing for the ADIZ. In that case, the mission intentionally skirted the disputed Diaoyu Islands (known as Senkaku islands in Japan).

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Audio and Video of the U.S. P-8A aircraft defying China’s Navy warnings to leave airspace over disputed islands

A P-8A Poseidon from Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 captures surveillance footage of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) conducting land reclamation operations in the South China Sea.

On May 20, a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft belonging to Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 conducted a routing surveillance flight over the South China Sea, where has started building an airstrip on the disputed Spratly Islands in the waters claimed by the Philippines.

During the flight, the crew of the P-8A documented several warnings, issued by China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), most probably on the International Emergency (“Guard”) frequency 121.5 MHz, to leave the area as the U.S. military plane was approaching their military alert zone.

Interestingly, the U.S. aircraft replies to the Chinese Navy operators urging it to leave their area “quickly” as follows:

“Station calling U.S. military plane, please identify yourself”.

Then, after receiving confirmation that it was a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) operator, the answer is always the same: “I’m a U.S. military aircraft conducting lawful military activities outside national airspace; I’m operating with due regard as required under International Law.”

The audio seems to be disturbed by some kind of jamming.

Anyway, according to the U.S. Navy, the P-8 mission documented the continued expansion of reefs which have been turned into man-made islands with airport infrastructure in the South China Sea.

 

The U.S. will base B-1 bombers and surveillance planes in Australia amid South China Sea tensions

Bombers and ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) aircraft head towards the Pacific.

It looks like the U.S. Air Force is planning to deploy some strategic bombers and surveillance aircraft in Australia to put some pressure on China amid South China Sea tensions.

The South China Sea is the subject of several territorial claims. China claims sovereignty on some island chains and  waters that are within the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam

This year, China has started building an airstrip on the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea  waters claimed by the Philippines.

According to FP, the Defense Department’s Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Shear, during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 13, said that along with moving U.S. Marines and Army units around the region, the Pentagon will deploy air assets in Australia, “including B-1 bombers and surveillance aircraft.”

The U.S. Air Force ISR aircraft, possibly unmanned Global Hawk drones, will monitor activities around the disputed islands, whereas the “Bone” heavy bombers will serve as a deterrent to challenge Beijing aggressive ownership claims.

U.S. strategic bombers have already been temporarily deployed to Australia, to take part in exercises with the Royal Australian Air Force, in 2012 and at the end of 2014 as a consequence of a joint Force Posture Initiative signed in 2011 to train together to face threats in the Pacific.

Actually, U.S. aircraft don’t really need to deploy to Australia to put pressure on China: Air Force Global Strike Command’s bombers, including B-52s and B-2s, routinely operate from Andersen Air Force Base, in Guam, strategically located 1,800 miles (about 2,900 km) to the east of China. And they can even launch round-trip strike missions from their bases located in the Continental U.S.

According to Xinhuanet, China cautioned the U.S. against taking any actions in the region, urging Washington “not to take any risks or make any provocations so as to maintain regional peace and stability.”

Image credit: Boeing