A mysterious aircraft, believed to be of the US military, was seen flying over the Philippines, sparking speculation that it was deployed by the Pentagon to spy on China.
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The communist nation, on the other hand, has shared a video of PLA jets “dropping bombs” in the Tibet region bordering India. These developments indicate the current geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific region with China at its center-stage
A photograph captured on September 2 by Michael Fugnit, a self-proclaimed “skywatcher”, showed a drone-like object, which was flying at high altitudes, heading towards the Philippines.
“I didn’t hear any sounds from the aircraft. I was waiting for the sunrise since it is my daily routine to capture sunrise and sunsets when I took the photo from the top hill of Brgy. San Roque Municipality of Sta. Magdalena Province of Sorsogon”, Michael told The Aviationist.
Soon, the photograph started doing the rounds on social media. The shape and contrail as depicted in the photograph showed a striking similarity to the photograph captured by Rob Kolinsky, a plane-spotter, near Edwards Air Force Base in California in October 2020. The images also resembled the description of the RQ-180, US Air Force’s secret stealth drone, which was previously reported by the Aviation Week in the year 2013.
This RQ-180, an unarmed drone, is believed to have flown from Guam to conduct operations around China, as reported by Forbes.
The stealth drone, which reportedly is a Northrop Grumman product, meets an obvious need of the US Air Force to conduct long-range, penetrating aerial reconnaissance in highly defended enemy air space, Forces said in its report.
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Meanwhile, China shared video footage of PLA drills in Tibet. These drills were conducted to test the abilities of various units to work together as well as to test the new weapons which were deployed in the region over the past few months. Military experts described these Tibet drills as “China sending warning shots to India”.
The militaries of the two nuclear-armed neighbors have been locked in a border standoff in eastern Ladakh for more than a year.
A video shared on the PLA Daily website on September 6 shows various units from the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Tibet Military District occupying an “enemy command center” at an altitude of 4700 meters (15,400 feet).
Even though the enemy in this exercise was not specified, Song Zhongping, a former PLA instructor, said that it was obvious.
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“It’s very clear that the PLA’s simulated enemy in these multi-unit joint drills is their Indian counterpart in the Himalayas, with the goal of the training aimed at testing the high-altitude air defense and offense of the Tibet Military District”, Song said.
“In the video clip, the Tibetan artillery troops showed that they are able to use long-range rocket launchers to stage precision strikes, while air defense missile systems could knock down incoming cruise missiles from the hostile side”, he added.
According to military observers, “Chinese fighter jets dropped missiles, troops brought down drones and ground force howitzers made precision strikes during a high-altitude drill by the Tibet Military District intended as a warning to India”.
The video showed that the drill involved infantry, artillery, army aviation, special operation forces, electronic warfare, engineers and chemical defense units. However, it has not been specified when these drills were conducted.
Zhou Chenming, a researcher at the Yuan Wang Military Science and Technology Institute in Beijing, said that since the Indian Army used spy drones for reconnaissance over the Chinese territory, such incursion simulations were incorporated into the training exercises for the Chinese military.
“The PLA has a military advantage when facing the challenges from their Indian counterpart, but the PLA doesn’t want to fight with India. India is a big trading partner of China, and China needs the Indian market. So, the drill is just a warning to the Indian side”, Zhou said.
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The footage of the exercise showed various new weapons such as the Type PHL-03 multiple launch rocket-system, and PCL-181 vehicle-mounted howitzers. PLA airborne troops were also seen occupying the “enemy command center” under protection and support from the artillery, intelligence, air force as well as other combat units.
Zhao Xianfu, a Tibet Military District brigade commander, said in the video: “We want to test our new equipment, and the rapid response, mobility and integration in joint cooperation among different fighting units in real combat.
“Our next step is to explore new approaches for fighting under extreme conditions in the high-altitude areas, to further boost the military region’s transformation and development”, he added.