A Chinese regional military analyst said that China deployed advanced fighter aircraft to Woody Island and in the next few months Beijing will also deploy fighter jets using its newly constructed runways on Fiery Cross reef to protect its sovereignty in the disputed region.
China moved 16 Shenyang J-11 advanced fighter aircraft to Woody Island on April 7. This was disclosed by a United States Defense official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.
But the Pentagon has confirmed smaller-scale deployments of Chinese fighters to Woody Island in the past, including in November 2015 and more recently in February.
The People’s Liberation Army, Naval Air Force will most likely placing 2 to 3 squadrons of Shenyang J-11 Chinese fighter jet using the 3,000-meter runway on the reclaimed 2,000 acres of landfill to bolster once-submerged reefs into islands on the Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef) in the West Philippine Sea, Chinese military analysts said.
The Shenyang J-11 is a single-seat, twin-engine, jet fighter, whose airframe is based on the Soviet-designed Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker air superiority fighter. It is currently manufactured by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation of China (PRC). It is intended as a direct competitor to Western fourth generation fighters such as the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, and the Grumman F-14 Tomcat.
Positioning military aircraft on the island seems to contradict Chinese President Xi Jinping’s vow not to militarize the South China Sea, a statement he made while visiting Washington, D.C. in February.
U.S. officials have said such deployments, alongside the aggressive buildup of manmade islands throughout the South China Sea, threaten stability in the region. They have repeatedly called for China and other countries that claim disputed territory in the South China Sea, a key international shipping route, not to militarize the land in the area. – Robert Beerlak