Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said on Tuesday that, during the previous 24 hours, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China sent 18 Xian H-6 nuclear-capable bombers into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) — a record number of bombers in a single day for China’s intimidating flights across the Strait of Taiwan.
The Taiwanese military said the H-6 bombers were accompanied by a Shaanxi Y-8 propeller transport aircraft configured for anti-submarine warfare, another Y-8 configured for reconnaissance, and a Shenyang J-11 air superiority fighter. Three surface warships and eight other military aircraft were detected in the area.
The Y-8, J-11, and H-6 are all Chinese adaptations of old Soviet Union designs. The H-6 is the most extensively upgraded and dangerous of the planes, with substantial improvements in range, payload, and electronic warfare capability. The H-6K strategic bomber variant can carry up to six cruise missiles with nuclear warheads.
“By sending more and more strategic bombers with anti-access and area denial capabilities, China could be delivering a message that they are able to deny any foreign support to Taiwan,” analyst Jyh-Shyang Sheu of Taiwan’s Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR) told Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Wednesday.
Sheu added that China’s bombers appeared to be configured not for nuclear warfare, but to “attack Taiwanese military targets but most importantly to deny foreign reinforcement, such as from U.S. aircraft carriers.”