Above the Asian skies, along with the growing tensions in Sino-American relations, it is getting crowded with machines performing reconnaissance missions and collecting intelligence.
Thus, it is not surprising that the Chinese side pointed to the possibility of the Americans using also non-military machines, specially prepared for ISR missions and coming from the private market for services for the military and intelligence agencies, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Defence24.
According to a Chinese analysis, Washington was to initiate ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] missions based on “civilian” aircraft flights in disputed regions of Asia. These types of patrols were to be carried out over the South China Sea, the Yellow Sea or the East China Sea. The planes were also to be observed in the strategic area of the Taiwan Strait. The Americans were to take off from bases in Japan [Okinawa] and the Philippines. According to the Chinese, the crews, consisting of private contractors, were to fly, for example, on specially prepared and equipped Bombardier CL-650 or CL-604 machines.
From Beijing’s perspective, Americans undertook this type of RRI activity due to their desire to increase recognition and obtain more intelligence related to Chinese activities, especially in key areas of these reservoirs. At the same time, as was emphasized in the South China Morning Post article, the flight of such a machine in general, as opposed to the flight of a purely military / intelligence machine, generates relatively less tension in the Sino-American relations.
This year, according to analysts from the Beijing think tank South China Sea Probing Initiative, there could be as many as 150. They also indicate that the machines are formally rented by companies – Tenax Aerospace and Meta Special Aerospace.
Regardless of the truthfulness of the Chinese data on the use of machines belonging to the above-mentioned companies, it should be emphasized that Americans have something to obtain similar services from. It’s worth noting that Tenax Aerospace on its website defines itself as a small company based in Madison, Mississippi, providing services to US government agencies as well as the civilian sector.
At the same time, offering a fleet of aircraft for special tasks. The creators of the company emphasized that they focus on programs critical to national security and public interest, including, among others: extinguishing fires from the air, but also (or perhaps in the context of Asia, primarily) gathering intelligence.
The second, indicated by the Chinese, aviation company from the United States describes its offer as providing a full range of aviation solutions, from integrated operational services in the field of command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [C4ISR], through specialized support in the field of conducting training and exercises on advanced technologies, up to maintenance, repair and renovation.
It should be noted that the use of non-military aircraft for ISR missions has a rich Cold War tradition. Especially when a given power did not want to be associated with, for example, the occurrence of an incident in the air, analogous to the shooting down of a U-2 piloted by the American Garry Powers. Therefore, it is not surprising that similar forms of activity are currently observed in regions with the highest saturation of the activities of the two global powers. Interestingly, in the period after the evacuation of the Kuomintang troops to Taiwan, it was the Taiwanese who were to conduct a somewhat forgotten air war over People’s China. Especially as part of the ISR operation, together with the Americans.
However, this does not change the fact that the greatest burden in the field of RRI missions, for example over the South China Sea, still rests on air force machines – both manned and, increasingly, unmanned. Moreover, the Chinese side expects an increase in this type of air activity on the American side. The current publication of the report can be considered that Beijing is sending a signal that it is monitoring American activity and is “better” taking this kind of form than the appearance of the RC-135, U-2 or Global Hawks.