Fighter jets of the Taiwanese Air Force (ROCAF) scrambled on September 5, 2021, to intercept a Chinese flight group of nuclear-capable strategic bombers and their escort.

The group of 19 aircraft was composed of four Xian H-6 strategic bombers, ten Shenyang J-16s, and four Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets, as well as one Shaanxi Y-8 maritime patrol aircraft. 

According to the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense, the Chinese aircraft entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) through the southern part of the median line which separates the Taiwan Strait, near the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands. 

(Credit: Taiwan Ministry of National Defense)

As an answer, a combat air patrol was dispatched to escort the flight group out of the zone. Radio warnings were issued and air defense missile systems were deployed to monitor the Chinese activity.

The Chinese authorities have not communicated on the incursion. China does not recognize the sovereignty of Taiwan and thus considers the strait which separates the island from the continent part of its territorial waters.

In the past few months, Taiwan’s defense ministry has reported an increase in Chinese military aircraft activity within its ADIZ. On April 12, 2021, as many as 25 Chinese military aircraft entered the country’s air defense identification zone. Another record incursion of 28 aircraft was also recorded on June 15, 2021. 

In 2020, the ministry reported that the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) flew about 380 sorties into the country’s ADIZ ‒ the highest number since 1996.

Though it remains unsure what motivated this latest incursion, the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, responsible for compiling the data on behalf of Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense, said the recent surge of activity was a reaction to the warming of the relationship between the island country and the United States. 

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Between January and November 2020, the Taiwanese defense noted a record 380 Chinese incursions into Taiwan's air defense identification zone.