South China Sea: Satellite image shows Chinese fighter jets deployed to contested island

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(CNN) — A satellite image obtained by CNN shows China has deployed at least four J-10 fighter jets to the contested Woody Island in the South China Sea, the first known deployment of fighter jets there since 2017.

The image was taken Wednesday and represents the first time J-10s have been seen on Woody or any Chinese-controlled islands in the South China Sea, according to ImageSat International, which supplied the image to CNN.

The deployment comes as tensions remain high in the South China Sea and Chinese President Xi Jinping prepares to meet United States President Donald Trump at the G-20 summit in Japan next week.

Analysts who looked at the satellite photo for CNN said both the placement of the planes out in the open and accompanying equipment is significant and indicates the fighter jets were on the contested island for up to 10 days.

“They want you to notice them. Otherwise they would be parked in the hangars,” said Peter Layton, a former Royal Australian Air Force officer and fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute. “What message do they want you to take from them?”

Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, said the deployment is designed to “demonstrate it is their territory and they can put military aircraft there whenever they want.”

“It also makes a statement that they can extend their air power reach over the South China Sea as required or desired,” Schuster said.

The J-10 jets have a combat range of about 500 miles (740 kilometers), putting much of the South China Sea and vital shipping lands within reach, Schuster said.

The four planes are not carrying external fuel tanks, the analysts said. That suggests they were to be refueled on the island, so the plan may be to keep them there awhile.

https://cnnphilippines.com/world/2019/6/21/south-china-sea-jets-woody-island.html

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