U.S. Military Aircraft Circles Taiwan As China Warplanes Alarm Island
By John Feng
25 January 2022
A U.S. Navy aircraft appeared to fly a circle around Taiwan early on Tuesday following 48 hours of intense Chinese warplane operations involving more than 50 aircraft.
Plane spotters watching the skies around the democratic island, which China claims as part of its territory, picked up one of the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft as it departed an air base in Okinawa, Japan, before making a beeline for the Bashi Channel, south of Taiwan.
At approximately 10 a.m. local time, the aircraft turned northeast and headed through the Taiwan Strait, the narrow body of water separating Taiwan and China, according to a flight pattern published by the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, a Peking University think tank tracking American military movements around China.
The rare 30-minute maneuver along China’s eastern coastline was not the only U.S. operation in the region; Taiwan-based plane spotters tracked a U.S. Air Force RC-135W Rivet Joint, an intelligence-gathering aircraft, loitering southwest of Taiwan around the same time. A KC-135 Stratotanker, which performs aerial refueling for the Air Force, was also seen in the area, according to publicly available data on flight-tracking services.
The Bashi Channel forms part of the strategically important Luzon Strait between Taiwan and the Philippines. The waterway connecting the Western Pacific to the South China Sea is frequented by American warships and aircraft, but in recent years has also seen regular training exercises by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).