On Jan. 23, Chinese bombers and fighter jets simulated an attack on the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) aircraft carrier as the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group entered the contested South China Sea.
Eight Chinese H-6K bombers and four J-16 fighter jets appeared to practice an attack on the aircraft carrier, the Financial Times initially reported based on the accounts of officials familiar with intelligence surrounding the simulated attack. U.S. Indo-Pacific Command spokesperson Capt. Mike Kafka later confirmed the reported attack in a statement to Business Insider on Friday.
“The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group closely monitored all People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and Air Force (PLAAF) activity, and at no time did they pose a threat to US Navy ships, aircraft, or Sailors,” Kafka said.
Kafka went on to say, “The PLA activities highlighted here, are the latest in a string of aggressive and destabilizing actions.”
The Financial Times reported the Chinese H-6 bomber pilots were heard, in intercepted radio transmissions, confirming orders to simulate targeting and releasing anti-ship missiles against the U.S. aircraft carrier.
Kafka said, “These actions reflect a continued PLA attempt to use its military as a tool to intimidate or coerce those operating in international waters and airspace, to include their neighbors and those with competing territorial claims,” adding the “United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, demonstrating resolve through our operational presence throughout the region.”
A defense official told Business Insider the attack simulation didn’t come within 250 miles of the U.S. aircraft carrier, putting the bombers out of the estimated range for their Y-12 anti-ship cruise missiles.
Chinese military analysts told the Chinese state-run Global Times that the mobilization of Chinese warplanes, as the U.S. carrier strike group passed near Taiwan, “Could be a warning to the U.S. and a simulated practice to boost the PLA’s combat capability against U.S. aircraft carriers.”
The Global Times reported the squadron of eight H-6K bombers would have been able to carry up to 48 anti-ship missiles and a military analyst said the missiles could be used to “launch a round of saturation attack on a hostile carrier.”
The practice attack occurred as the U.S. carrier strike group entered the South China Sea by way of the Bashi Channel, south of Taiwan.
China has sought to expand its control in the South China Sea, and has warned against the U.S. strengthening ties with Taiwan. Though Taiwan governs itself as an independent nation, China maintains its claim to Taiwan as part of its territory.
China has also sought to control other parts of the South China Sea, though the U.S. recently rejected China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, and other nations have held their own conflicting claims to the sea region.