PLA fighters and bombers were spotted southwest of the island File photo: Taiwanese F-16V jet fighters taxi on the runway in Chiayi, Jan 5, 2022. © Getty Images / Ceng Shou Yi

Taiwanese interceptors took to the air on Tuesday as 29 Chinese fighters, bombers and support aircraft were reported off the southwestern coast of the island, the defense ministry in Taipei said. Six bombers and their fighter escorts flew into the Pacific Ocean through the channel between Taiwan and the Philippines and back again, in the third-largest foray into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) this year.

In addition to the six H-6 bombers, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force sent 17 fighters and another six support planes, the Taiwanese military said. Some of them flew northeast of the Pratas atoll in the South China Sea, while the bombers and two support planes took the Bashi Channel route into the Pacific, before turning back the way they came.

Taiwan dispatched interceptors to ward off the PLAAF squadron and used missile systems to track them, the defense ministry said in a statement. According to Taipei, this was the third-largest group of Chinese aircraft to enter the Taiwanese ADIZ this year. Another 30 jets came through on May 30, while a January 23 flyby involved 39 planes in total.

The island’s ADIZ extends far beyond Taiwan’s airspace and into mainland China, so even the routine flights by the PLAAF inside Chinese airspace technically count as incidents. However, Taipei has accused Beijing of waging “gray zone warfare” on the island, deploying military assets to test Taiwan’s defenses and wear out the island’s military by making them scramble repeatedly. (RT)