China flew armed fighter jets over the South China Sea in response to the U.S. sailing a destroyer near disputed islands in the area, according to multiple news reports.
Last week, the USS Lassen, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, cruised within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands to challenge China’s territorial claims.
On Saturday, the Chinese military released photographs on its website showing J-11 fighter jets armed with missiles conducting training operations from an airstrip in the South China Sea.
According to an article by Jun Mai, a reporter for the South China Morning Post, the airstrip is located on Woody Island in the Paracels — some 600 kilometers (370 miles) north from the Subi Reef near where the Lassen transited.
The Shenyang J-11 is a twin-engine fighter based on the Soviet-designed Sukhoi Su-27, which NATO designates the Flanker. It can carry a 30mm cannon, rockets, bombs and anti-ship and air-to-air missiles, including the PL-12 missile.
China’s fourth-generation J-10 and J-11 fighter jet aircraft would be roughly equivalent in capability to an upgraded U.S. F-15, according to a U.S. congressional report from last year.
Here are the photographs released by the Chinese military of the so-called training exercise.