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The People’s Liberation Army is massively revving up its sub-hunting operations in waters near Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait separating the island from mainland China.
A Chinese government-backed newspaper called the Global Times, published a report saying that a Chinese Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, The PLA sub-hunting plane entered Taiwan’s air identification zone, flying between the island of Taiwan and the Taiwan administered Dongsha Islands in the South China Sea, the paper said.
The Y-8 patrols were described as a substantial step forward in the realm of submarine hunting for the Chinese military which has primarily deployed ship-based Z-9 and Ka-28 helicopters for submarine warfare missions.
The paper also speculated that the Y-8 patrols could be an effort to demonstrate the effectiveness and operational status of the Y-8, following what the Global Times described as “unconfirmed reports” of a Y-8 accident or crash in the region.
The Global Times newspaper quoted a Chinese military expert explaining the rationale for the Spy-plane patrols.
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“At a time when external forces have been frequently sending spy planes to conduct close-in reconnaissance near the Chinese mainland, dispatching warships to provocatively sail through the Taiwan Straits, and deploying submarines to the South China Sea, it is necessary for the PLA to enhance its capabilities and preparedness to monitor and patrol relevant regions with not only anti-submarine warfare helicopters, but also fixed-wing aircraft, as the latter can cover a larger area in a shorter time,” the expert said, according to the paper.
The Chinese report went on to suggest that more of these kinds of patrols are likely in the future.
One possible reason for this Chinese anti-submarine warfare emphasis could suggest that the PLA operates with a clear understanding of just how crucial US and Taiwanese submarines could be in any warfare scenario over Taiwan.
The US does have a growing technological sophistication with its submarine fleet, in large measure because the Virginia Block III attack subs are engineered for massive land attack as well clandestine surveillance missions.
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Submarines could prove decisive in the event of a Chinese amphibious assault on Taiwan, as they might be able to operate undetected in high-risk coastal areas near the shores of Taiwan or mainland China.
Newer Block III and follow-on Virginia-class submarines operate with next-generation sensors, advanced Large Aperture Bow sonar arrays and engine quieting propulsion technologies, making them much harder to track. As part of this survivability and lethality equation, Virginia-class submarines will soon be launching recoverable mini-drones from its missile tubes to extend the reach of its undersea surveillance missions.
Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.