The Chinese navy has stepped up assault training and combat readiness with a series of night bombing drills in waters off the southern island of Hainan.
The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Southern Theatre Command said on Sunday that dozens of bombers from a naval aviation regiment carried out patrols earlier this month to improve the crews’ stamina and situational awareness at night.
In the “high intensity” exercise, H-6J bombers practiced fending off ship and ground attacks as well as firing tactics.
“It laid a solid foundation for fighting night battles,” the command said on its social media account.
But it did not specify where the drills took place.
The exercise comes as military tensions mount in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.
The Southern Theatre Command oversees China’s military activities in the South China Sea and is responsible for aiding PLA forces covering the Taiwan Strait.
Last week, in response to a visit by a US congressional delegation to Taiwan, the PLA Eastern Theatre Command, which focuses on Taiwan and the East China Sea, held exercises near the island.
And in a show of strength and determination, the PLA also sent a record 149 military aircraft southwest of Taiwan in strike group formations in one day in October, prompting the island’s military to yet again scramble aircraft and activate its air defense missile systems.
The PLA fighters and bombers also patrol from their base in Hainan over the South China Sea, most of which is claimed by Beijing, despite competing claims from five other neighbors.
The US Navy also frequently conducts freedom of navigation operations near Chinese-controlled islands in the disputed waters.
The Southern Theatre Command has troops and warships stationed at some of the islands and the US carries out the patrols to challenge the Chinese claims.
The United States also conducts exercises with aircraft carrier strike groups in the region, and invites allies to take part.
Last month, the US Navy and Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force had a joint exercise with an aircraft carrier each in this region, one the world’s busiest waterways.
The H-6J bombers operated by the PLA Navy are modified versions of the air force’s H-6K bombers, with improvements to combat attacks from ships.
In the intended operational use, the anti-ship missiles it carries will be focused on an enemy’s large aircraft carrier group.
The H-6 series can also lay maritime mines, conduct electronic warfare, do maritime reconnaissance and coordinate activities with other naval units.
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