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Taiwan reports underplay ‘hundreds' of PLA aircraft in live-fire drills

China's Eastern Theatre Command says it is launching hundreds of aircraft to participate in live-fire drills around Taiwan. (VCG via Getty Images)

China says it is dispatching hundreds of combat aircraft to the six live-fire zones around Taiwan. However, Taipei's daily air incursion reports show smaller figures. Janes assesses that this could partly be because of strains on the country's radar network.

China launched a four-day live-fire exercise around Taiwan from 4 August, in response to a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on 2 August.

On the first day of the drills, the People's Liberation Army's (PLA's) Eastern Theatre Command said that it had “dispatched hundreds of fighters, bombers, and other multitype [aircraft] to the airspace in the north, southwest, and southeast of Taiwan Island”.

The PLA added that the aircraft are conducting “day and night” joint reconnaissance flights, air assault training, and support flights. All six live-fire zones are within Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

However, ADIZ reports issued by Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) do not record such high numbers. In its 4 August report, the MND noted 22 incursions by PLA aircraft into the ADIZ. These included eight Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-11s, 12 Sukhoi Su-30s, and two SAC J-16 fighter aircraft. All 22 aircraft were recorded to have crossed the median line. On 5 August Taiwan recorded 68 aircraft incursions up to UTC+8.

This latest breach of the median line mirrors 22 such crossings by PLA aircraft on 3 August.

In its video releases of operations undertaken on 4 August, the PLA showed Chengdu J-20 stealth fighters and J-16 two-seat fighters. These aircraft were flown to the northern part of Taiwan, the PLA said.

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