China has accused the USAF of sending a U-2 spy plane into a no-fly zone to “trespass” on live-fire exercises being conducted by China below.
A supposed overflight by a U.S. Air Force U-2 spy plane interfered with one of china’s currently underway People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) exercises. It isn’t clear where exactly the incident is claimed to have taken place as China has four major naval wargames underway in the South China Sea, Yellow Sea, East China Sea, of Sea of Bohai right now.
The incident reportedly took place on August 25 above the Yellow Sea off China’s north coast. According to the Chinese tabloid Global Times, China’s military was holding military exercises in the Bohai Sea and the Yellow Sea. Another source narrows it to waters between the cities of Qingdao and Lianyunggang to the south. This places it in the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Northern Theater, which has its headquarters in Qingdao.
The high-altitude US reconnaissance craft went into airspace Beijing deemed off limits during drills by the People’s Liberation Army’s Northern Theater Command on Tuesday, Wu Qian, a spokesperson for the Chinese Defense Ministry, said in a statement.
“The trespass severely affected China’s normal exercises and training activities, and violated the rules of behavior for air and maritime safety between China and the United States, as well as relevant international practices,” Wu said.”
The US action could easily have resulted in misjudgments and even accidents.”
A statement from US Pacific Air Forces to CNN confirmed a U-2 flight — but said it did not violate any rules.
The U-2 involved was likely part of the U.S. Air Force’s 5th Reconnaissance Squadron, operating out of Osan Air Base, South Korea. If Liaoning was conducting flight operations, a U-2 could use its SYERS2C 10-band multispectral camera to observe carrier takeoffs and landings, and even activities on the flight deck. SYERS2C uses visible light and various infrared bands to see through atmospheric conditions (like clouds and fog) where other cameras cannot.
The Pentagon’s 2019 annual report to Congress on Chinese military power states China’s Northern Fleet includes one aircraft carrier, four nuclear-powered submarines, 16 diesel electric submarines, 11 frigates, and eight landing ships. The carrier is Liaoning, China’s first true aircraft carrier, which is likely a training ship designed to get the country’s fledgeling carrier force up and running.
The U.S. military is particularly interested in China’s carrier force, which currently consists of Liaoning, Shandong, and a third carrier, Type 003, which is under construction. Experts believe China will eventually build anywhere from four to six carriers.