US Did More FONOPS, Surveillance Flights in South China Sea in 2020 Than Ever Before – Report

The Biden administration has made clear that it regards China as the US’ chief security concern and has begun preparing for a wider diplomatic and cultural effort to underpin its military posturing, which shows few signs of departure from the trends of the prior Trump administration.

According to a new report by a Chinese think tank, the US performed more “freedom of navigation operations” (FONOPS) and more surveillance flights over the South China Sea in 2020 than any previous year. While the US performed fewer military drills in the region, those it held were far more provocative than prior years, appearing to rehearse future military operations instead of simple displays of force.

The South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a think tank connected to the University of Peking, noted some key changes in US military behavior in a recent report on US operations in the South China Sea last year. The think tank notes the report is “incomplete” because its data is largely derived from open source intelligence (OSINT), such as automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), a satellite-based navigation system used by aircraft that might not account for more secretive missions.

Reconnaissance Flights

According to the report, the US military conducted at least 1,000 reconnaissance sorties across the seas off China’s coast, flying from a variety of bases including Osan Air Base in South Korea, Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Andersen Air Force Base in Guam,…

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