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Update: Russia-China moving towards closer bomber co-operation

In a 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 data states that the H-6K is the newest and primary variant of the H-6 bomber series in Chinese military service. The bomber may be capable of carrying DH-10 cruise missiles, and/or the KD-63 and KD-20 missiles, Janes data adds.

The Russian MoD confirmed on its official Telegram channel on 30 November that the Chinese bombers had landed in Russia. It did not specify the landing site.

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