Early on November 30, two Chinese H-6K strategic bombers approached from the East China Sea. They flew through the Straits of Korea and Tsushima to South Korea, where they entered the country’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The Chinese government and the Russian government do not recognise the territory.
The first Chinese incursion into the South Korean ADIZ occurred at local time, 5:48 in the morning, over an area approximately 120 kilometres northwest of Ieo Islet. Afterwards, they remained at that location for more than half an hour. They left the port city of Pohang, located on the southern Korean Peninsula, at 6:44 in the morning, re-entered the same ADIZ, and then departed towards the Sea of Japan at 7:07 in the morning.
After that, these two H-6Ks teamed up with four other strategic bombers, one of which was a Russian Tu-95 “Bear.” At least two Su-35MS fighter bombers followed these bombers. The formation was spotted in the ADIZ of South Korea, where it lingered for a considerable time between 12:18 and 12:36 local time.
As per the Russian Ministry of Defence release, Russian Tu-95MS strategic missile carriers and Chinese Hun-6k strategic bombers were part of the combined air force’s joint air group. In certain regions, the group was accompanied by the Russian Aerospace Force’s multi-role fighters called Su-30SM and Su-35S.
During this sequence, the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) launched several fighter aircraft, including F-15Ks, to detect and accompany the Chinese and Russian bombers as they approached the ADIZ.
The Sino-Russian formation was supplemented with two J-16 fighters from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which were refuelled in flight by a YY-20. This occurred while the formation was conducting a patrol in an area between the islands of Okinawa and Miyakojima, which was under the watch of the Japanese air self-defence forces (JASDF).
The Russian and Chinese bombers have worked together on a mission before. Since July of this year, there have been several of them carried out. A Russian A50 Mainstay aerial lookout plane had twice entered the airspace of South Korea at the level of the Dokdo archipelago, which Japan also claims. As a result, the first of its kind resulted in a serious incident. F-15s and South Korean F-16s had fired several warning shots in the plane’s direction.
However, after their patrol in the East China Sea, the Russian and Chinese planes did not return to their respective bases as they normally would have done in the past, as per the Russian Ministry of Defense press release.
“Russian and Chinese air forces conducted a joint patrol in the Asia-Pacific region, over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea. This joint flight lasted about eight hours and, on some stages of their route, the bombers […] were escorted by fighter planes of foreign states,” Moscow first explained, emphasising that “no violation of foreign airspace was committed” and that this patrol “was carried out within the framework of a Russian-Chinese military cooperation plan for 2022”.
Then, the same source said that “for the first time during a joint patrol, Russian planes landed at an airfield in the People’s Republic of China and Chinese planes at an airfield in the Russian Federation”. No further details were given.
According to information that has been spread across social networks, at least one Tu-95MS made an emergency landing on a track located in the province of Zhejiang, more specifically in Hangzhou, which is situated to the west of Shanghai.
As per the Russians, during the combined patrols, the crews of the missile carriers spent 8 hours in the air, making an intermediate landing at the PLA military airfield for the first time, and Chinese bombers tested the Russian airfield. The Russians did not provide the exact location where the Chinese bombers operated.
According to information provided by the Ministry of Defense, joint patrols were conducted as part of implementing the provisions of the military cooperation plan for 2022; the activities will be continued over the next year.
Regardless of the circumstances, and despite the conflict in Ukraine and the pressure placed on China during the most recent G20 summit, this “extraordinary” patrol demonstrates that Beijing has no intention of reevaluating its relations with Moscow.
In addition, on November 29 of this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping stated that he desired to have an “even closer” collaboration with Russia in the energy sphere to “ensure international energy security and the stability of the energy chains.” In addition, over the past few days, there have been reports of flights regularly carried out in China by AN-124 “Ruslan” type cargo planes that belong to the Russian corporation “Volga-Dnipro”. At least ten flights were recorded over the previous week). Enough to support the idea that China is helping Russia with their military operations.