US Flew 65 Spy Plane Sorties Over South China Sea in April, Up 40% in 2021, Report Says

The Biden administration has postured against China’s alleged aggression, but as Beijing representatives have pointed out, it’s the US that is increasing military activity off China’s shores and drilling for assault operations, not the other way around.

The US flew 65 spy plane missions across the South China Sea in April, according to data compiled by the South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI) think tank published on Friday.

​According to the report, the US flew five types of reconnaissance aircraft across the area, reflecting a wide interest in everything from maritime patrol to signals intelligence and battlefield construction.

SCSPI also tracked five missions flown by the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS), a powerful intelligence-gathering aircraft that carries a ground moving target indicator able to track dozens of ground units as well as a synthetic aperture radar capable of taking highly detailed images of the ground for hundreds of kilometers in every direction. A single MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicle also flew across the South China Sea in April.

Other spy planes continue to operate in the vicinity of China as well: A U-2 Dragon Lady high altitude spy plane was tracked flying across the East China Sea on Thursday from the USAF’s Osan Air Force Base in South Korea.

These flights have taken place in the context of military drills by a US carrier strike group and an amphibious ready group, together sporting…

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