Chinese J-15 fighter jets, apparently operating from the aircraft carrier Liaoning, are seen flying over a U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke class destroyer in a video recently shown on state-run China Central Television. The footage comes soon after imagery emerged of a full complement of 24 J-15s arranged on the deck of the same carrier, and while it’s unclear when these date from, their appearance now is certainly interesting in light of the current raised tensions between China and the United States over Taiwan, as well as reflecting the increasingly routine nature of interactions between U.S. and Chinese forces in the Asia Pacific region.
It’s also unclear where the video of the J-15s overhead the unidentified U.S. Navy destroyer was taken, but there has been speculation that the incident took place in the Taiwan Strait that separates Taiwan from mainland China. While that can’t be confirmed at this stage, we have reached out to the U.S. Navy for clarification. If the footage is from the Taiwan Strait then it was likely a response to the sort of ‘show of force’ that U.S. warships have conducted here in the recent past — as well as elsewhere in the wider Asia Pacific region.
Indeed, the Taiwan Strait has been the scene of recent intense military activity by China and the U.S. and its allies. In particular, the visit to Taiwan by U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in early August triggered a series of military drills in the strait that continued throughout the month.
Only last week, meanwhile, the Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Higgins (DDG-76) and the Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax class frigate HMCS Vancouver passed through the Strait. This is only the most recent transit of the strait by a U.S. Navy warship and the J-15s were not passing over this warship, which is a Flight II vessel, identified by its hangar deck. Nevertheless, U.S. destroyers operate across the region routinely, including in the South China Sea, where they could also encounter J-15s from Liaoning.