China, Russia time joint bomber flight with Quad summit

The H-6K variant of China's main strategic bomber.
The H-6K variant of China's main strategic bomber.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced on 24 May that six Chinese and Russian strategic bombers were observed flying near the Japan on the same day that Tokyo was hosting the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) summit, prompting the Japan Air-Self Defense Force (JASDF) to scramble its jets in response.

According to the MoD, two Chinese Xian H-6 bombers and two Russian Tu-95 bombers, were observed by JASDF aircraft over the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan earlier on the day, followed by a pair of different H-6 along with the same Tu-95 bombers which transited the Miyako Strait between the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Miyakojima to enter the Pacific Ocean from the East China Sea.

While none of the bombers had violated Japanese national airspace, the joint bomber flight – the first of such activity since November 2021 and the fourth since July 2019 – appears to be an apparent bid to warn against the Quad summit which was led by the leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States.

A Russian Ilyushin Il-20 electronic intelligence aircraft was also seen flying over the Sea of Japan on the same day.

Tokyo protested about the flights to China and Russia through diplomatic channels, with the Japanese defence minister, Nobuo Kishi, asserting during a press conference that Japan “cannot overlook any provocations to raise tensions in the East Asian region”.

The Chinese Ministry of National Defense (MND) and the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) both announced on the same day that their respective air forces had conducted a “joint aerial patrol” over the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea, and the western Pacific.

“Our mission this time strictly followed international law and there was no airspace incursion,” the Russian MoD stated, noting that the exercise was held according to an annual military co-operation plan and “was not intended to counteract any third country”.

Meanwhile, South Korea also announced that two H-6 bombers and four Russian aircraft, including two Tu-95 bombers, entered its air defence identification zone (ADIZ), but did not violate the nation’s territorial air space.

Japan earlier announced on 20 May that the China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN’s) Liaoning aircraft carrier had launched more than 300 launch sorties since early May near Japan and Taiwan.

by Jr Ng