Spying for Hire: US Using Civilian Contractor Planes to Monitor Seas Off Chinese Coast- Think Tank

Where it was previously known to be flying spy planes near China disguised as civilian aircraft, now the US military has been revealed to be contracting civilian firms to fly spy missions for them in the region. The US has dispatched three such planes to the western Pacific in recent months, according to a new think tank report.

Beginning in March of this year, the US has used several civilian aircraft modified for military purposes to monitor the South and East China Seas, the Yellow Sea and the Taiwan Strait, according to a report by the South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a Chinese think tank connected to the University of Peking.

“Compared with the air reconnaissance capabilities of the US Navy and Air Force, the reconnaissance aircraft of private defense companies have greater flexibility in dealing with ‘gray area’ issues, reducing the diplomatic pressure caused by direct military confrontation,” SCSPI wrote. 

​Three Modified Civilian Jets

One aircraft is a Bombardier Challenger (CL-604) maritime surveillance aircraft operated by Tenax Aerospace Corporation. SCSPI describes the CL-604 as “a simplified version” of the Poseidon, which is adapted from a Boeing 737 airliner. According to SCSPI, the CL-604 arrived at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, Japan, on March 31. 

The plane has its advantages, too: the think tank notes its ability to easily dip below 1,000 feet in altitude enables it to engage in “high-intensity reconnaissance” close to…

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