Tag Archives: China

Things heat up near South China Sea: two U.S. aircraft carriers, B-52s and EA-18G Growler detachment

The U.S. build-up in the disputed waters of South China Sea continues with bombers, carriers and Electronic Attack planes.

Some interesting photographs have been arriving from the troubled waters of Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

The most recent ones, released on Jun. 18, show the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) carrier strike groups (CSG 3 and CSG 5) crusing close each other during dual carrier flight operations in the Philippine Sea.

Such operations included air combat training, long-range strike training, air defense drills as well as sea surveillance.

The CSG 3, that started operations in the Western Pacific on Feb. 4, consists of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) and guided-missile destroyers of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21, USS Stockdale (DDG 106), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) and USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110), and the aircraft of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9.

CSG 5, begun its summer patrol of the Indo-Asia Pacific, on Jun. 4, and consists of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), guided-missile cruisers USS Shiloh (CG 67) and USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and guided-missile destroyers from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Benfold (DDG 65); the aircraft of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, is forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan and routinely, patrols the Western Pacific.

According to the U.S. Navy, the CSGs (Carrier Strike Groups) began coordinated operations in international waters to demonstrate “the United States unique capability to operate multiple carrier strike groups in close proximity.”

U.S. Navy aircraft carriers regularly conduct dual carrier strike group operations in the Western Pacific and sometimes also in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Philippine Sea: this occurs when carriers deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations from the U.S. West Coast are joined with the forward deployed carrier strike group from Japan. When it happens a force of 12,000 sailors, 140 aircraft, six combatants and two carriers operates in the same sea: an impressive “show of force.”

Two carriers in South China Sea

Previously, in Sept. 2012, USS George Washington (CVN 73) and USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) strike groups conducted combined operation in the South China Sea and East China Sea. In 2001, USS Constellation (CV 64) and Carl Vinson operated together in the South China Sea.

A few days before the two carriers started combined operations, a joint service bombing exercise at the targeting island Farallon de Medinilla, an uninhabited small island in the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean located 45 nautical miles north of Saipan, saw two U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers launched from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, fly over USS Spruance (DDG 111) in a maritime attack training sortie.

Along with the two carrier strike groups and the B-52 providing extended deterrence, Washington has also deployed to the Philippines the first temporary detachment of Navy EA-18G Growlers.

The electronic attack aircraft have arrived at Clark Air Base, on Jun. 15. Even though they are officially there to train with the local FA-50, the detachment, made of 4 aircraft and 120 personnel with the Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 138, “will support routine operations that enhance regional maritime domain awareness and assure access to the air and maritime domains in accordance with international law.”

Therefore, the strategical deployment brought not far from the disputed waters in the South China Sea some cutting-edge aircraft capable to perform electronic escort missions on both U.S. ships and spyplanes that are frequently shadowed by Chinese spyplanes or intelligence gathering ships. Furthermore, the Growlers could jam, if needed, the Chinese radars on the Spratly, Paracel, Pratas and the rest of the islands, including those that have been artificially created, decreasing Beijing ability to establish an ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) similar to that in the East China Sea and to support its warplanes in the area.

The presence of (some more…) EA-18Gs could theoretically limit the operations of the Chinese Air Force (PLAAF) and Navy (PLANAF) that, according to “Flashpoint China: Chinese air power and regional security” published by Harpia Publishing and written by Andreas Rupprecht, one of the most authoritative sources on Chinese Air Power, “are able to ensure virtually continuos, round-the-clock aerial coverage and combat air patrols over the area during a crisis or a conflict.”

In particular, the PLANAF is pretty active in the area with a regiment each of H-6 bombers and JH-7 fighter-bombers and no fewer than three regiments of J-11 interceptors covering the South China Sea . “The availability of long-range J-11s and aerial refueling assets implies that much of the SCS [South China Sea] is now de-facto Chinese airspace,” says Rupprecht.

It’s not a coincidence that a recent close encounter in the area involved few weeks ago two Chinese J-11 tactical aircraft that carried out an “unsafe” intercept of a U.S. EP-3E reconnaissance aircraft on a routine mission in international airspace over the South China Sea.

VAQ-138 Clark AFB refuel

The Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 138 is an expeditionary squadron based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, that has previously taken part in deployments across the region. The Growler detachment comes after a first temporary Air Contingent made of five A-10C Thunderbolt aircraft, three HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and approximately 200 personnel deployed from multiple Pacific Air Forces units that took part in exercise Balikatan and completed their final mission on April 28, 2016.

Image credit: U.S. Navy


Photo shows China’s Air Force One escorted by 8 Pakistan Air Force JF-17 jets

You don’t see such kind of escort flights every day.

Chinese President Xi Jinping received a very warm welcome on his arrival for a two-day state visit in Pakistan on Apr. 20. A formation of eight JF-17 Thunder jets intercepted and escorted the presidential Boeing 747-400 as it entered Pakistan’s airspace in bound to the Nur Khan airbase in Rawalpindi, Punjab province.

The impressive escort was rather symbolic: the JF-17 is a light, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft jointly manufactured by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China. It represents one of the most evident signs of the strong ties between Beijing and Islamabad.

The Pakistan Air Force plans to operate 160 JF-17 multirole jets about one-third of those are already in active service.

Image credit: AP via Sobchak Security

Is this China’s next generation stealth fighter bomber?

Most probably, not. However, the artworks  are interesting.

Although China is known to be working also on a new stealth fighter bomber, we don’t know much about the H-20, as the aircraft is believed to be dubbed.

The long-range strike aircraft should be built around the concept of a subsonic, radar evading, flying wing configuration and some scale models have even appeared at aviation exhibitions.

While previous artworks depicted shapes of Beijing’s LRS (long-range strike) inspired to several existing U.S. planes, including the F-117 Nighthawk, the YF-23 and the B-2, a new image has recently popped up on the prolific Chinese Internet.

It shows a manned tactical plane, with internal weapons bay as well as external pylons which carry stand-off missiles. The cockpit reminds the one of the Soviet-era Su-24 Fencer, a side-by-side two-seater.

The “new” shape seems like an evolution of previous concepts, even though it may well be just fan art.

Last but not least, the new stealth bomber is depicted as flying over the disputed Senkaku islands.

What do you think? Can this be Beijing’s response to the American LRS project?

Chinese Stealth fighter bomber side view

Image via Sina.com


China’s new Y-20 cargo plane (that looks like a C-17/A-400M hybrid) lands at Zhuhai, parks close to C-17

China-made airlifter (that looks like a C-17/A-400M hybrid) is one of the highlights of Zhuhai airshow.

The Stealthy J-31 “Falcon Eagle” is not the only highlight of the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition: the Y-20 a brand new military cargo plane that made its maiden flight on Jan. 26, 2013 is also taking part in the Zhuhai airshow, which starts next week in China.

The Chinese airlifter arrived at Zhuhai from Xi’an Yanliang Airport at 11:54AM LT after a 3-hour flight, on Nov. 5.

The following video shows the Y-20 land at the end of its practice display and park in the apron reserved to the large aircraft, close to the Boeing C-17 of the UAE Air Force, supporting the Al Fursan display team.

The large military transport plane is a hybrid between the U.S. C-17, the Airbus A400M Atlas four-engine turboprop, and the nose section of the Antonov An-70; in July 2009, a former Boeing employee was convicted of selling secret C-17 technical details to China.

The image below lets you compare the shape of the two airlifters.

Comparison Y-20 C-17

Image credit: @AK630


Video of China’s Stealthy J-31 aircraft’s (quite smoky) flight display practice at Zhuhai airshow

The Shenyang J-31 “Falcon Eagle” to debut at Zhuhai airshow, China’s biggest commercial and defense air show, near Hong Kong.

The first prototype of Shenyang J-31 Falcon Eagle, China’s second stealth fighter jet, is going to be one of the highlights  of China’s most important commercial and defense airshow held next week at Zhuhai, in the southern province of Guangdong, not far from Hong Kong.

The new aircraft, that performed its maiden flight on Oct 31, 2012, which is smaller than the J-20, from which it differs for the grey paint job and the presence of a colored emblem on the tails (in place of the typical red star) with the text 鹘鹰, Chinese for “Falcon Eagle”, embeds several features of the F-22 Raptor, and the F-35 Lightning II, respectively the current and future most advanced multi-role jets in the U.S. Air Force inventory: along with the distinctive lines of the Lockheed Martin’s stealth designs, the Chinese jet has a nose section which reminds that of the Joint Strike Fighter, same twin tails and trapezoidal wings.

Still, unlike the F-35, it is equipped with two engines (like the F-22, even though without Thrust Vectoring capability, at least, not yet).

The following footage shows the video of the J-31 practicing its demo flight at Zhuhai on Nov. 6. Pretty simple stuff (but let’s not forget it is just a prototype at its first public appearance). Noteworthy, the engines that currently equip the aircraft are a bit smoky: the Chinese jet may evade radars and one day equal F-22 and F-35s but for the moment they can be spotted from far away because of its engines pluming black smoke.

Top image credit: Alert5.com