On the evening of August 2, 2022, a United States Air Force Boeing C-40C landed at Songshan Airport (TSA) in Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan.
The aircraft, callsign SPAR19, had just carried out a seven-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur (SZB) in Malaysia, which took it around the South China Sea. On board was the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose visit to Taiwan sent shockwaves throughout the region.
The security of the transport aircraft was first assured by a US Navy carrier battle group formed around the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, deployed east of Taiwan. Once Pelosi’s C-40 entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) a secured air corridor was established to ensure the safety of the VIP transport aircraft.
In coordination with the ROCAF F-16 fighters escorting the aircraft, the Taiwan Navy deployed a number of Kee Lung-class (formerly US Navy Kidd-class) destroyers and Cheng Kung-class (US Navy Perry-class) frigates for their anti-air capability, local outlet Up Media reported.
On the day of Pelosi’s visit, the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense reported that 21 aircraft operated by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) entered Taiwan’s ADIZ from the southwest. These included 10 Shenyang J-16 and 8 J-11 fighters, and three support aircraft.
In response, the Taiwanese Air Force (ROCAF) dispatched its own fighters for interception and deployed air defense missile systems.
China deploys aircraft carriers as tensions soar
Earlier that day, the CV-17 Shandong aircraft carrier and one Type 075 UDC landing helicopter dock of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) left the naval base of Sanya, on the southern coast of the Hainan Island.
On July 31, 2022, PLAN’s other operational aircraft carrier, the CV-16 Liaoning, also raised anchor from the North Sea Fleet’s home base in Qingdao, in the eastern Shandong province.
Though their exact mission or destination is unknown, they might join the military drills that are to take place around Taiwan between August 4 and 7, 2022. Each aircraft carrier is capable of carrying a wing of 24 Shenyang J-15 fighters, the local version of the Russian carrier-based Sukhoi Su-33.
Due to this surge in military activity and the impact it has on air traffic control, the authority of China’s Fujian region, opposite Taiwan, announced substantial flight cancelations. Local air carrier Xiamen Airlines announced that more than 50 flights would be delayed.