TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China's declaration that the median line in the Taiwan Strait does not exist was upended when Taiwanese aviation enthusiasts saw an American warplane appear to "draw" the exact location of the unofficial boundary.
On Sept. 21, Beijing suddenly denied the existence of the median line in the Taiwan Strait, despite the fact that there has been a tacit agreement in place not to cross the line since 1955. Since September, People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft have repeatedly crossed the median line and breached Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
The Facebook page of Taiwanese aircraft spotter Southwest Airspace of TW (台灣西南空域) at 11:19 a.m. on Thursday morning stated that an MC-130J was flying north to south along the median line. The administrator of the Facebook page, surnamed Hsu (許), made a comment below noting the placement of the flight path in between Taiwan and China and wrote, "This is a little weird."
At 11:24 a.m. on Thursday, aircraft spotter CANUK78 posted a tweet stating that a U.S. Air Force Lockheed MC-130J Commando II was flying over the Taiwan Strait. The flight path included in the tweet showed the aircraft flying right down the middle of the Taiwan Strait from north to south.
At 11:54 a.m., aircraft spotter JW Wiese posted a tweet stating that an MC-130J had flown over the Taiwan Strait and listed it as a "multimission combat transport/special operations tanker, assigned to the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC)." The route shown on JW Wiese's tweet showed the plane first flying down the middle of the Taiwan Strait before making a sharp turn to the east, taking it briefly over western Taiwan, and later heading west over the strait.
After the plane had made a perfect "L" shape, Hsu at 12:27 p.m. wrote, "The median line has been drawn, mission completed." Another Taiwanese aviation fan joked, "Did the chief judge come today to draw the line?"
On Thursday afternoon, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) stated that it was aware of all flights that morning and that "the situation is normal." The MND had previously reported a similar mission by the same type of aircraft on Aug. 29 last year.
The plane's airframe identifier is AE596A, a special mission aircraft operated by the AFSOC. According to Lockheed Martin, the aircraft's maker, the MC-130J is “capable of worldwide employment for missions requiring clandestine single- or multi-ship low-level aerial refueling of Special Operation Force vertical and tilt-rotor aircraft and/or infiltration, resupply and exfiltration by airdrop, or landing on remote airfields.”
USAF MC-130J Commando II showing earlier in #Taiwanstrait . Multimission combat transport/special operations tanker, assigned to the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC)#ae596a #taiwan pic.twitter.com/NPTmYAda9z— JB Wiese (@JBWiese75) October 8, 2020