Mon, Jan 22, 2007 - Page 1 News List

China deploys advanced fighters

SHOW OF FORCE A newspaper reported yesterday that China had deployed 12 Jian-10 jets at an air force base about 500km from Taiwan, seemingly sending out a warning

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

China's air force has deployed 12 advanced Jian-10 fighter jets to Zhejiang Province, a news report said yesterday.

"The military is studying why the Chinese military has [recently] been unveiling its development of new weapons in such a high-key fashion, such as the production of J-10 fighter jets and the launching of a ballistic missile to shoot down an orbiting satellite," Ministry of National Defense spokesman Rear Admiral Wu Chi-fang (吳季方) told the Taipei Times yesterday.

"The military wants to know what strategy or goal is behind the posturing," Wu said.

Wu said the military would soon make public information concerning the impact of China's deployment of J-10 fighters.

Chinese state TV last month aired videos that it described as showing that batches of the J-10 fighter -- both the single-seat J-10A and the two-seat J-10B -- had entered operational service.

Footage showed the jets performing aerial maneuvers, including firing air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles.

Wu yesterday did not confirm whether or not the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) had deployed J-10 jets in Zhejiang, one of three coastal provinces that abut the Taiwan Strait.

The Chinese-language daily China Times yesterday cited a military source as saying that 12 J-10 jets had been deployed at an air force base around 500km from Taiwan.

The news report said Taiwanese military officials believe that the J-10's combat performance is inferior to that of comparable fighters, such as the Russian-made Su-27 and Su-30 fighters. The PLAAF currently possesses some 400 Su-27s and Su-30s.

Taiwan's air force still sees the Chinese Su-27 and Su-30 fighter jets as the main rivals for Taiwan's advanced fighter aircraft, and uses them as primary targets when conducting computer war games, the newspaper said, without citing a reference.

International military experts believed the PLAAF would produce 300 to 500 J-10 jets, the newspaper said, adding that Taiwan's military intelligence learned China would produce only 120 J-10s, without providing a source.

The newspaper also speculated that the deployment of J-10s would pose a threat to Taiwan's security, and that the new jets would gradually replace PLAAF old J-7 and J-8II fighter jets.

The newspaper said China would send J-8 and J-10 jets force to engage Taiwan's US-made F-16 and French-made Mirage 2000 war planes in the beginning of a cross-strait conflict, before sending its more advanced Russian-made aircraft.

The strategy is to weaken Taiwan's air force through attrition, the news report cited an unnamed military source as saying.

Hong Kong-based defense magazine Kanwa Defense Review Editor-in-Chief Andrei Chang told the state-run Central News Agency earlier this month that China wanted to deter the possibility of instability and tension across the Taiwan Strait this year and next by highlighting its military capabilities.

Chang said, however, that the J-10 jets were no match for late-model F-16s in combat performance, particularly with regard to air-to-surface combat.

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