PLA Navy Air Force bombers carry out South China Sea exercise

Xian H-6J strategic bomber
Xian H-6J strategic bomber

The People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force’s (PLANAF’s) Xian H-6J strategic bombers have reportedly conducted sea mine-laying and air-to-surface attack drills as part of a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea.

According to video footage released by the state-owned China Central Television (CCTV) on 3 December, several H-6J bombers deployed at night and transited to the training area in the South China Sea at dawn. The bombers then performed aerial mine-laying and bomb attacks on targets situated on unidentified islands and reefs.

The H-6J aircraft that took part in the exercise are understood to be assigned to the PLA Southern Theatre Command. The CCTV report also noted that the bombers carried out two bombing sorties and were refuelled and rearmed at the Guiping Mengshu airbase located inland from the southern Chinese island of Hainan which faces the South China Sea, and showed at least one bomber armed with YJ-12 supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles in addition to internally mounted sea mines and bombs.

“We have effectively tested the accuracy and reliability of both types of munitions. For the next step, we will pursue innovations in tactics and approaches with the realistic situation of the enemies taken into consideration and make breakthroughs in using new types of weapons and equipment,” Zhang Yanjie, a deputy commander of the PLANAF regiment, was quoted as saying by China’s Global Times.

The Xian H-6J is the latest variant in the H-6 family and is replacing the ageing H-6G. The newer type can carry up to six standoff land attack and anti-ship cruise missiles on its underwing pylons such as the Y-12J and YJ-83K anti-ship missile. It is also equipped with two wing-mounted electronic countermeasures (ECM) pods for electronic self-defence.

Although the H-6J’s primary area of operations appears to be the South China Sea, it is expected that the H-6J will also be deployed to support PLA Air Force (PLAAF)-operated H-6K bomber in the advent of conflict in Taiwan Strait.

by Jr Ng