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It's Boom Time for Naval Spy Planes

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posted on Jul, 31 2013 @ 12:11 PM
Great article on the War is Boring blog today about naval spy aircraft operating near Japan and China in the South China Sea. On July 24th a Chinese Y-8J with a Thales Skymaster radar flew near the Senkaku Islands. This time, instead of orbiting the islands like they had always done, they flew towards the Okinawa prefecture, towards the Japanese Home Islands. This is the first time they had operated in this way, and it's seen as an escalation.

At the same time in Japan, a document (unconfirmed) has been released detailing an increase in US Navy P-3C aircraft over the South China Sea. Their mission, according to the document, is to keep an eye on Chinese frigates, and surveillance ships operating near the Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands. The Philippine Navy beached a hospital ship there, and converted it to a base for troops.

The P-3s are operated out of Clark Air Base in the Philippines at the request of the Philippine government. The Philippines are one of several nations that claim at least part of the islands, but is by far the weakest of them. Their largest ship is an old US Coast Guard cutter, and most of their aircraft are light strike aircraft that are poorly suited to operations at sea. So they have asked the US for help with monitoring activities in the region.

About 40 miles northwest of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, American spy planes are taking off for secretive missions in the South China Sea. There the planes loiter, watching for Chinese warships that, suspiciously, have been appearing in region more and more often lately.

The U.S. spy missions are so sensitive, the Pentagon won’t say whether or not the flights even exist.

Perhaps it’s not surprising. The South China Sea is home to hundreds of islands known as the Spratlys — and no one can agree who owns what. China claims most of them along with the islands’ bountiful natural resources. Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan claim other chunks.

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