China sends electronic warfare planes into Taiwan’s ADIZ

The J-16D is China’s most advanced electronic warfare fighter jet.
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China sends electronic warfare planes into Taiwan’s ADIZ A file photo of the J-16D from Zhuhai airshow in September 2021
Taiwan Ministry of National Defense

China has kept up pressure on Taiwan by dispatching for the first time into the island’s Air Defense Identification Zone its latest electronic warfare aircraft designed to disrupt radar systems, analysts said.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement that a total of 13 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft, including eight J-16 fighter jets, a Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, two H-6 bombers and two J-16D electronic warfare aircraft, entered its ADIZ on Monday while two U.S. aircraft carriers were conducting joint operations in the South China Sea. Another two Chinese aircraft entered the ADIZ on Tuesday, it said.

An ADIZ is an area where civilian aircraft are tracked and identified before further entering into a country’s airspace.

The J-16D is China’s most advanced electronic warfare fighter jet. It was unveiled at an airshow only last September and entered combat training in November.

“The deployment of this kind of special electronic warfare aircraft is a threat to both Taiwan and the U.S.,” said Jyh-Shyang Sheu, a military expert at the Taiwan's Institute for National Defence and Security Research. Like other observers, he said Monday’s flight appeared to be first time those aircraft had entered the Taiwan ADIZ.

“The aircraft can be used for jamming the Taiwanese Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Air Defense systems; as well as in air combat,” said Sheu.

Meanwhile, the Global Times – the hawkish sibling of Chinese Communist Party’s mouth-piece People’s Daily – claimed in an editorial on Tuesday that “it has become normal for PLA warplanes to fly around Taiwan and approach the island for patrols.”

The opinion piece ended with a chilling warning that the PLA flight routes “have been like a noose tightening around the neck of Taiwan ‘secessionists,’ making them feel breathless” and should Taiwan continue to challenge the "one-China" principle, “the noose will become tighter.”

Photo of the USS Carl Vinson with F-35C fighters on the deck during a joint exercise with  the Royal Australian Navy, Dec. 10-19, 2021. Credit: US Navy
Photo of the USS Carl Vinson with F-35C fighters on the deck during a joint exercise with the Royal Australian Navy, Dec. 10-19, 2021. Credit: US Navy
‘Large-scale exercise’

The J-16D ‘Howling Wolf’ is China's state-of-the-art electronic warfare anti-radar aircraft, developed by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation.

It is designed to seize control of the electromagnetic field and disrupt radar systems, as well as hostile missiles.

Equipped with jamming pods and anti-radiation missiles, the J-16D is also said to be capable of neutralizing enemy radar systems.

The Chinese J-16D “still has a capability gap comparing with the U.S. EA-18G,” noted Sheu, the Taiwanese warfare expert.

“The new generation electronic warfare pods for the U.S. ‘Growler’ could generate its own electricity but it's not clear if the Chinese system could also have the same efficiency,” Sheu said.

“But what’s more important is if the electronic warfare system’s mature enough and well integrated with the whole systems including other combat aircraft and even maritime assets,” he said, adding: “The PLA Air Force is certainly trying to develop more capabilities.”

The J-16D deployment came one day after the PLA sent 39 aircraft into Taiwan’s ADIZ in a move seen as a response to the ongoing drills by the U.S. and its allies in the region.

It was the largest number of Chinese warplanes documented since Oct. 4, 2021, when the PLA sent a record 56 military aircraft to near the island.

On Sunday, two U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Groups began a joint operation in the South China Sea. Before that, they took part in a joint exercise with the USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group, the USS America Expeditionary Strike Group and Japanese Navy helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga in the Philippine Sea.

The number of PLA sorties on Tuesday reduced to only two but “as long as the U.S. Navy is still conducting exercise nearby, the PLA will still send aircraft to counter it,” Sheu said.

The USS Carl Vinson and USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Groups with over 14,000 sailors and Marines were still in the area on Tuesday. It was reported that a U.S. F-35 jet crashed on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson, injuring seven including the jet’s pilot.

The U.S. Pacific Fleet said in a statement that the pilot was conducting routine flight operations when the crash happened. The pilot safely ejected from the aircraft and was recovered via U.S. military helicopter. Three injured sailors have reportedly been released, the other four are in stable condition.


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