(Update: 10/24 5 p.m.) Pacific Air Forces say that contrary to previous statement, no U.S. aircraft flew over Taipei on Wednesday (Oct. 21).
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Multiple aircraft spotters on Friday morning (Oct. 23) began alleging that a U.S. Air Force (USAF) spy plane was flying over Taiwan, while the USAF has confirmed that a similar flight indeed took place on Wednesday (Oct. 21).
At 11:23 a.m., plane spotter Tokyo Radar announced on Twitter that a USAF Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint electronic surveillance aircraft from the 343d Reconnaissance Squadron with the callsign 62-4134 was flying over northern Taiwan at an altitude of 32,500 feet. The latitude and longitude coordinates given, 25°08'28.8"N 121°33'29.8"E, placed it over Taipei's Yangmingshan. However, Tokyo Radar cited the source as "Mode S," the aviation transponder interrogation modes for civilian use, and wrote, "Not sure at this time if this source is accurate."
At 11:29 a.m., aircraft spotter CANUK78 also posted a tweet claiming that the RC-135 with the callsign 62-4134 had been detected flying over northern Taiwan. About 20 minutes later at 11:50 a.m., Tokyo Radar posted a map showing the plane over Taipei and wrote that RC-135W Rivet Joint (62-4134) had confirmed that it had taken off from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa at 8 a.m. that morning.
By 1:10 p.m., Taiwan Formosa Club posted a tweet which repeated the data listed by Tokyo Radar and alleged that it was a prelude to the Keen Sword military exercise. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command originally announced that the exercises would begin on Oct. 26 but made no mention of flights over Taiwan.
Later that afternoon at 2:54 p.m., the CANUK78 posted a map showing the plane appear to zigzag over the heart of Taipei City. At 3 p.m., well-known aircraft spotter Golf9 wrote that the RC-135W had taken off from Kadena Air Base and was flying from north to south over Taiwan.
On Wednesday, both Golf9 and Tokyo Radar had reported that RC-135W had flown over Taipei's airspace. Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) described the tweets as "fake news" based on "erroneous settings by inexperienced aviation enthusiasts."
Conflicting with the MND's statement, an officer at Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) confirmed to The War Zone that the flight did take place: "I can confirm that an RC 135W [sic] Rivet Joint aircraft did fly over the northern portion of Taiwan yesterday as part of a routine mission." The officer then added that "Due to operational security we are not able to discuss the specifics of the mission."
Japan time 23 October 12:18— Tokyo Radar
United States Air Force (343rd RS/55th WG)
Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint(62-4134)
North of Taiwan.
Not sure at this time if this source is accurate. pic.twitter.com/snPxfqkDh1