Global Hawk targeted over disputed South China Sea islands
China tried to electronically jam U.S. drone flights over the South China Sea in a bid to thwart spying on disputed island military construction, U.S. officials said.
Global Hawk long-range surveillance drones were targeted by the jamming in at least one incident near the disputed Spratly Islands, where China is building military facilities on Fiery Cross Reef.
Disclosure of the jamming came as a U.S. Navy P-8 surveillance flight on Wednesday was challenged eight times by the Chinese military to leave the same area.
Later Thursday, the Navy released video revealing that the China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy sent several radio warning messages to the crew of the P-8 ordering the jet to leave the area, and to deviate from its flight path near Fiery Cross Reef.
A Navy officer aboard the militarized Boeing 737 aircraft is quoted on the video saying an airstrip under construction on Fiery Cross Reef is “hundreds of meters” long and was built on the reef in the past several months.
It was the first time operations by the P-8, a new surveillance aircraft that is armed with torpedoes, were disclosed by the Navy.
At the Pentagon, spokesman Col. Steve Warren said the United States does not recognize China’s sovereignty claims over the new islands and said P-8 aircraft and Navy ships have not gone within 12 miles of the islands. “That would be the next step,” Warren told reporters. Asked about plans for transiting the close-in areas, Warren said: “We don’t have any announcement to make on next steps. We are going to continue our routine flights.”
Details of the drone interference are classified. A spokesman for the Hawaii-based Pacific Command and Pacific Air Force declined to comment on the jamming.
China has been building up new islands in the area, using special dredging ships that pump sand from underwater. According to U.S. officials, over the past several years, some 2,000 acres of islands have been reclaimed in the South China Sea.
Now China is building military facilities on the reclaimed land that will be used to exercise military control over what China is calling the Nine-Dash Line covering most of the South China Sea that Beijing claims as its maritime domain.
Those claims are disputed by Vietnam, the Philippines, and other states in the region.
“Last year was the time to start freedom of passage challenges as China was just starting to build its new military bases atop the global strategic economic arteries of the South China Sea,” Fisher said.
“Waiting until this year means that China will sooner have the tactical advantage of being able to put military forces on its new bases to challenge U.S. sorties into this region,” he added. “It is likely that by this fall, the People’s Liberation Army will be able to start placing weapons on these islands—radar plus anti-air and anti-ship missiles first, then PLA Navy J-11B air superiority fighters.”
Once the bases are set up, Fisher said the Chinese will use them to keep U.S. forces out of the region.
Full article: Chinese Military Using Jamming Against U.S. Drones (Washington Free Beacon)