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Strange patterns: Growing complexity of Chinese activity in Taiwan's ADIZ

An assessment of Chinese air activity in Taiwan's ADIZ between 1 March 2022 and 27 March 2023 shows that the PLA began a sustained campaign of median line incursions from August. The data show that Chinese military aircraft are also involved in novel incursions into the ADIZ. (Taiwan MND/Japan MoD/Janes )

Flights by Chinese military aircraft into Taiwan's air-defence identification zone (ADIZ) are becoming increasingly complex and are showing a more diverse range of operations.

For years, China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force (PLAAF) and the PLA Navy (PLAN) focused on flights into the southwestern quadrant of the ADIZ and near Pratas Island, an isolated atoll defended by Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration. However, from mid-2022, Chinese air operations changed in scope and capability.

According to data from Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) and Japan's Ministry of Defense (MoD), 1,872 Chinese military aircraft flew into the ADIZ between 1 March 2022 and 27 March 2023. These aircraft were spread across at least 894 unique incursions.

Within these overall figures were 718 Chinese military aircraft that conducted 235 individual incursions over the median line – the unofficial boundarybetween Taiwan and China, as defined by the United States in 1954–55.

In addition, in the last 12 months at least 171 special missions aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles/unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UAVs/UCAVs) were monitored by Taiwan and the Japanese MoD as they flew along 81 ‘unusual' flightpaths within the zone.

Janes has assessed these flights as being distinctly different from standard PLA air operations in the southwestern ADIZ. They include long-range sorties by specialist aircraft south of Taiwan and air operations along flightpaths not previously seen.

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