China Exercises Bombers Over Miyako Strait

H-6K bombers with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force carried out an exercise over the Miyako Strait for the first time on May 21, according to PLA officials and the Xinhua state news wire. The exercise, which the PLA said was intended to “level up the PLA Air Force’s mobility and combativeness” in operations over water, was within international airspace and did not disrupt any civil aviation. The Miyako Strait lies between Okinawa and Miyako Island in the Okinawa Prefecture of Japan. The drill is the second long-range PLAAF drill in the past two months, with its first long-range Western Pacific exercise taking place this past March over the Bashi Channel. Pictures posted by the Ministry of Defense show the exercise featured what appears to be the PLAAF’s H-6K bomber, a Chinese version of the Tupolev Tu-16, which is capable of carrying cruise missiles. PLA officials said the exercises are not targeted at any particular country, but added similar exercises may be planned in the future and will simulate real-world scenarios. Chinese forces are working to improve long-range aviation capabilities beyond Chinese territory, according to PLA watchers, and have expanded training and exercising activities as a result.