Update (Jan. 25, 2022): The U.S. Navy reported a “landing mishap” while a combat jet conducted exercises in the South China Sea Monday. According to the Navy, the jet crashed while trying to land on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Seven sailors were injured in the mishap. Three were evacuated for medical treatment in the Philippines. The other four were treated on board the ship.
“The pilot safely ejected from the aircraft and was recovered via U.S. military helicopter. The pilot is in stable condition,” the Navy said in a press release. “Additional details and the cause of the inflight mishap is under investigation.”
The aircraft carrier that was hit has resumed routine flight operations.
Original Story (Jan. 24, 2022): A day after China sent 39 warplanes toward Taiwan, the Defense Department announced Monday it has sent aircraft carriers to the South China Sea for training. The carriers are part of two groups, led by their flagships USS Carl Vinson and USS Abraham Lincoln. According to the department, the carriers will carry out exercises including anti-submarine warfare operations, air warfare operations and maritime interdiction operations.
U.S. Navy ships routinely sail close to Chinese-occupied islands in the South China Sea and through the Taiwan Strait. The goal is to challenge China’s claims of sovereignty, much to Beijing’s anger.
“Operations like these allow us to improve our combat credible capability, reassure our allies and partners, and demonstrate our resolve as a Navy to ensure regional stability and counter malign influence,” Rear Admiral J.T. Anderson, commander of the strike group led by the USS Abraham Lincoln, said in a statement.
The announcement of the carriers at sea followed Taiwan’s defense ministry reporting the largest air incursion from China since October. The 39 warplanes that flew to Taiwan included 24 J-16 fighter jets and 10 J-10 jets, among other support and electronic warfare aircraft. On Monday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on why the country flew so many warplanes, saying it was not a diplomatic matter.
Chinese pilots have been flying towards Taiwan on a near-daily basis in the past year and a half. That’s when Taiwan’s government started publishing the data regularly. Taiwan calls China’s repeated nearby military activities “grey zone” warfare. The flights are designed to both wear out Taiwan’s forces by making them repeatedly scramble and to test Taiwan’s responses.
While it was not clear what might have prompted China to carry out such a large-scale mission, U.S. and Japanese naval forces have been carrying out exercises in the Philippine Sea. The sea covers a vast area that includes waters to the east of Taiwan. China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan to accept its sovereignty claims. In return, Taiwan’s government stressed it wants peace but will defend itself if attacked.