China lands nuclear-capable bombers in South China Sea for the first time
China further upped the ante in the South China Sea by landing long-range nuclear-capable bombers on one of its artificial islands for the first time.
“Chinese bombers including the H-6K conduct takeoff and landing training on an island reef at a southern sea area,” China’s state-run newspaper People’s Daily posted on Twitter on Friday.
Chinese bombers including the H-6K conduct takeoff and landing training on an island reef at a southern sea area pic.twitter.com/ASY9tGhfAUADVERTISEMENT
— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) May 18, 2018
Washington-based think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said the video posted on Twitter by People’s Daily which showed a long-range bomber landing and taking off was taken from Woody Island in the Paracel Islands.
“The base H-6 aircraft’s combat radius of nearly 1000 nautical miles means even China’s basic bombers taking off from Woody Island could cover the entire South China Sea,” AMTI wrote.
“Nearly all of the Philippines falls within the radius of the bombers, including Manila and all five Philippine military bases earmarked for development under the U.S.-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) . An H-6K, with its technical upgrades giving it a combat radius of nearly 1900 nautical miles, would dwarf this radius, putting all of Southeast Asia in range of flights from Woody Island,” it added.
The agreed locations for the EDCA are Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City, Mactan-Buenito Ebbed Air Base in Cebu and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.
The AMTI also said that future deployments to the “Big 3” in the Spratlys would bring Singapore and much of Indonesia within range of even China’s lower-end bombers, while the H-6Ks could reach northern Australia — and even US defense facilities on the island of Guam.
“No doubt [it] will soon land on an island in Spratlys since [hangars] there are built to accommodate bombers,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power project at the Center for Strategic International Studies, on Twitter.
China has three airstrips in the Spratlys which can accommodate fighter planes — Panganiban (Mischief), Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), and Zamora (Subi).
Panganiban is inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, while Zamora is 12 nautical miles from Philippine-occupied Pagasa Island (Thitu). Kagitingan is outside but near the Philippine EEZ. /muf
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