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China conducts nighttime bomber sorties around Taiwan

China’s military this week carried out nighttime bomber missions around Taiwan, flights that coincided with the visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Chinese state media reported Monday.

The fights by H-6K bombers were described by China Central Television as “Taiwan island encirclement flights.”

“We have the capability to sortie at any time and anywhere, be it at day, at night, or before dawn,” Wei Xiaogang, an instructor with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force bomber group told CCTV. No additional details on the flights were disclosed, including when the flights took place.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry reported that nine PLA aircraft and eight PLA navy vessels were spotted around Taiwan on Monday. The types of aircraft were not fully disclosed in a Twitter post.

Two PLA Z-9 anti-submarine warfare helicopters were detected crossing into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone during the aircraft sorties, the ministry said.

Disclosure of the bomber flights were described in the Chinese Communist Party-affiliated Global Times as a rare public report on Chinese bomber flights near Taiwan, the island democracy Beijing has vowed to bring under its control.

The H-6K is the mainstay of the PLA air force bomber fleet and can carry either conventional and nuclear bombs and missiles. The bomber is known to be able to carry KD-20 land attack missiles, YJ-12 supersonic anti-ship missiles and YJ-21 hypersonic missiles, the reports said.

Disclosure of the bomber encirclement of Taiwan came as Mr. Blinken held what were described as “candid” talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday in the first visit to China by a secretary of state since 2018. Mr. Blinken said after his meetings in Beijing that the administration is seeking closer communications with China to prevent competition from veering into conflict.

Night bomber flights demonstrate the H-6K’s increasing all-weather and round-the-clock strike capabilities, the CCTV report said.

“While a nighttime sortie is more challenging to pilots, it also applies significantly more pressure to adversaries, because the latter would have to remain on high alert passively all the time,” Global Times stated.

The CCTV report said that in addition to flying around Taiwan at night, the bomber group also set records in conducting “far sea exercises” over the Pacific Ocean more than 100 times. The bombers also have conducted combat patrols over the disputed South China Sea and conducted joint exercises with land, sea and space forces, the network stated.

In 2018, an H-6K from the unit also fired an anti-ship missile against a target warship, and in 2022 the same unit adopted new technology that improved missile accuracy by 20%.

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