Chinese strategic bombers fly to unidentified airspace, conduct drills

China's long-range strategic bombers flew several thousand kilometers to an unidentified airspace during a recent military exercise.

Chinese strategic bombers fly to unidentified airspace, conduct drills
Image courtesy: Xinhua

Beijing: China's long-range strategic bombers flew several thousand kilometers to an unidentified airspace during a recent military exercise and destroyed multiple targets using precision weapons.

The PLA Daily, the official organ of the Chinese military has reported that H-6Ks from a bomber unit under the Guangzhou Military Command used sophisticated manoeuvres and tactics to break through the "enemy defence" and overcame bad weather and the "enemy's electromagnetic blockage."

The bomber unit is the first to use the H-6K and has flown out of the "first island chain" several times this year to perform long-range drills, it said.

Based on this the strategic bombers of the People's Liberation Army, (PLA) Air Force can now launch all-weather, long-range, precision strikes, military observers said.

"The fact that our H-6K bombers have performed several long-distance drills far into the Pacific Ocean indicates that the H-6K fleet has become capable of conducting various operations such as long-range precision strikes," Fu Qianshao, an aviation equipment expert with the PLA Air Force, was quoted as saying by state-run China Daily.

"In the past, our bombers could only deliver airdropped bombs and so were unable to conduct precision attacks, but the H-6K, with the adoption of some of our most advanced aeronautic technologies, is able to carry and launch air-to-surface cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles, which means it can take out multiple targets on the ground or at sea within one mission," he said.

"Such capability is indispensable for any air force if it wants to perform strategic missions," Fu said.

In May this year amid growing confrontation with US over the disputed South China Sea, China has unveiled an assertive military strategy enhancing its navy's duties for the first time to "open seas protection" in a white paper on defence.

China is currently locked up in a growing tensions with US military in the South China Sea, over which Beijing asserts its sovereignty. Its claims are contested by Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

US has been asserting that its military will continue to fly and sail through the airspace of the contested islands to assert the freedom of navigation in the islands and reefs being developed by China.

US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said during his current tour of Australia that "make no mistake, the US will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as we do around the world, and the South China Sea will not be an exception."

"We will do that in the time and places of our choosing," he said.

In this backdrop Chinese military officials believe that their strategic bombers have significant role to play.

Fu said the PLA has defined its air force as a strategic force and pledged to obtain offensive capability for it. An air force with strategic aspirations must be able to perform long-range precision strike operations, so the H-6K is undoubtedly a valuable asset to the PLA Air Force, he said.

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