U.S. Global Hawk drone shadowed PLA warplanes as they circled Taiwan

U.S. Air Force RQ-4 watched Chinese warplanes from above during their most recent flight near Taiwanese airspace

Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk (By Wikimedia Commons)

Taipei -- An American RQ-4 Global Hawk drone shadowed Chinese military aircraft as they tightly circled Taiwan's airspace on Dec. 10, according to a representative of the Ministry of National Defense who spoke to United Daily News. 

According the official, when the PLA launched a squadron of jet fighters and bombers headed toward Taiwan on Dec. 10, Japan dispatched two F-15 Eagle fighter jets to monitor them while the U.S. launched EP-3 and RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft to surveil the Chinese warplanes. Meanwhile, the U.S. also sent RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft to monitor the overall situation from above at high altitude. 

During this latest incident involving Chinese aircraft flying around Taiwan, 10 Chinese aircraft conducted a training exercise that passed through the  Miyako Strait, the southern extent of Japan's ADIZ, and then flew in a tight clockwise circle around the outside perimeter of Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), before exiting out the Bashi Channel on their way back to China.

The Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force published a picture on its official Sina Weibo account Friday of a Xian H-6K nuclear-capable bomber clearly marked with a communist red star and flying above the clouds. In the background, two mountain peaks appear above the cloud cover, one of which appears to be Taiwan's highest peak, Yushan. Controversy arose because there were some who believed the proximity of the the bomber indicated that it was intruding into Taiwan's ADIZ. 

However, Taiwanese officials have denied that it is not possible for Yushan to be pictured in the background as it is situated about 200 kilometers inside the ADIZ, but rather it was more likely Mount Beidawu, and insist that the PLA aircraft never breached Taiwan's ADIZ.  

The report came as Chinese air force jets were recently found to have closely approached Taiwanese airspace on two occasions in less than a month's time. The sudden rise in military activity has also been linked by commentators to President Tsai Ing-wen's December 2 call to United States President-elect Donald Trump.

On Dec. 14,  Taiwan's military launched a three-day live-fire exercise off the coast of eastern Taiwan to test its air defense capabilities, which will included the test firing of the country's domestically-developed Tien Kung (天弓導彈, Sky Bow) anti-ballistic missile system.

Also on Dec. 14, the Taiwanese army staged an air defense drill called "Lien Hsiang" (聯翔操演) which used two F-16 Falcon fighter jets to simulate the response of air defenses to a night attack by PLA military aircraft on Hualien Air Force Base