The first-ever incursion of Chinese military helicopters into Taiwan’s southwestern air defense identification zone (ADIZ) this week suggests that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could be rotating through its arsenal of aircraft to probe the capabilities of the Taiwanese defense system and how it responds, experts said on Friday.
The Ministry of National Defense said that two Z-8 helicopters — the Chinese version of the French Aerospatiale SA 321 Super Frelon — and one Shaanxi Y-8 transport plane flew into the southwest ADIZ on Friday morning.
The ministry on Thursday said that a Harbin Z-9 “Haitun” helicopter and a Y-8 transport plane also flew into the ADIZ south of the Taiwan Strait, adding that it was the first recorded incident of Chinese helicopters since the ministry began reporting Chinese aerial incursions in September last year.
Photo courtesy of the Ministry of National Defense
Lu Li-shih (呂禮詩), a former instructor at the China Naval Academy in Kaohsiung, said that the Z-8 and Z-9 helicopters vary in their features, but have similar their radar cross-sections.
These are the two main types of helicopters that Taiwan’s military would most likely come across, Lu said.
By deploying one of the helicopter versions and observing how Taiwan reacts, Beijing can gather intelligence on Taiwan’s response procedures and how well the military knows Chinese helicopter types, he said.
Institute for National Defense and Security Research analyst Shu Hsiao-huang (舒孝煌) said the Z-8 is one of the mid-sized to large helicopters fielded by the PLA and has anti-submarine, airborne early warning and troop transport capabilities.
Any form of surprise landing in Taiwan would likely employ a Z-8, Shu said, adding that these helicopters can take off from large ships or newly created airfields along China’s southeastern coast.
Lu said that China could deploy more helicopter types to test Taiwan’s responses and to fatigue military pilots, adding that Beijing could also begin sending drones.
The military should deliver a complete countermeasure against Chinese harassment, Lu said.
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