Here some interesting news from the straights of Taiwan last month that sounds straight out of the Cold War. Apparently, Taiwanese F-16s scrambled to intercept PLAAF Su-27 Flankers that crossed the median line of the Taiwan strait while chasing down an American U-2 Dragon Lady spyplane. The Flanker returned to its base after the Taiwanese jets were scrambled
The U-2 was reportedly flying between Osan Air Base in South Korea to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan when it threaded between the Peoples Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan, but you should know this already). Wait a second, Korea to Japan via the Taiwan straits? The strait sits almost 300 miles to the southeast of Okinawa. Ok, this sounds like a blatant spy mission.
With all the talk about China’s buildup of area denial weapons and the aftermath of the 2001 EP-3 incident you’d think we’d lean toward using satellites and drones like the U-2’s unmanned sibling the RQ-4 Global Hawk or the stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel (rumored to be flying out of Osan).
This may be a reminder of just how limited our unmanned airborne intel collecting resources are despite all the talk of sensor miniaturization and the ability of drones (or even a fifth gen fighter) to perform the intel duties of much larger cold war-vintage intel birds. I mean, the U-2 was supposed to have been replaced by the Global Hawk a while ago. But, the Dragon Lady can still carry more spy gear than the Global Hawk and there are more U-2 available for spy missions than there are RQ-4s.
Via Alert 5.
Update — Apparently this was the first time in a decade that PRC fighters have crossed into Taiwanese airspace. Meanwhile, the Adm. Mike Mullen says that the U.S. won’t stop these recce flights off the coast of mainland China.
From the Telegraph (UK):
However, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, told reporters in Washington that the US would “not be deterred from flying in international airspace”. He said: “The Chinese would see us move out of there. We’re not going to do that, from my perspective. These reconnaissance flights are important”.