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Russia-China moving towards closer bomber co-operation

The joint Russia-China bomber flight conducted on 30 November is the fifth such event in the last three years. It prompted a major show of force from countries in the region. The US Air Force scrambled at least two Lockheed Martin F-22s to intercept the bomber force. (US Air Force)

In an unprecedented boost to interoperability, long-range Chinese and Russian bombers landed in each other's airbases for the first time, as part of a joint air patrol.

According to the Japanese Ministry of Defence (MoD), the drills began on the morning of 30 November. Two Chinese H-6K bombers were observed as they flew over the East China Sea.

“After passing through the Tsushima Strait, [the Chinese aircraft] advanced into the Sea of Japan [East Sea]. It was confirmed that it flew north towards the continent,” the MoD said in a statement.

“Around the same time, two presumed Russian aircraft flew southwards into the Sea of Japan [East Sea] before reversing and flying back towards the continent,” the Japanese MoD added. Information on the flightpaths appears to show the two Russian aircraft flying briefly along a parallel route of the Chinese aircraft. The flight prompted a substantial scrambling of air assets from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) and the US Forces Japan.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) issued a statement saying that it had deployed Boeing F-15K jets as an anticipatory measure against a potential unforeseen situation.

According to the JCS, the H-6K bombers “repeatedly entered and left” the Korea Air Defense Identification Zone (KADIZ), off the southern and northeastern coasts of South Korea at around 0550 h local time. Janes

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