Photos taken on the afternoon of Apr. 16, 2022, show F-15C Eagles belonging to the 67th and 44th Fighter Squadrons, landing at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, carrying live AIM-120C AMRAAM and AIM-9M Sidewinder missiles. One of them also carried a Lockheed Martin’s AN/AAQ-33 SNIPER ATP (Advanced Targeting Pod), whereas none had the Legion Pod equipped (new to the 67th and 44th and still in the early stages of training).
The aircraft were returning to their homebase from a 7-hour mission during which they were supported by two KC-135 tankers. A source who wishes to remain anonymous confirmed us that the aircraft were part of a larger flight tasked with CAPs (Combat Air Patrols) near Taiwan where China conducted military drills following a “provocative” trip of a U.S. Congressional delegation to the island. In fact, on Friday Apr. 14, six lawmakers arrived at Taipei SongShan Airport for a two-day visit.
USAF C40C SPAR15 en route to #Taiwan from Kadena AB. pic.twitter.com/E5Y2Qs0Huj
— Manu Gómez (@GDarkconrad) April 15, 2022
USAF C-40C Clipper 09-0540 carrying the Mr.Robert Menendez and other senators and congressman arrive Taipei SongShan Airport for 2 days official trip.#USAF #BOEING #BOEINGC40CCLIPPER#TAIPEI #TAIWAN pic.twitter.com/YhRBdBxOpl
During their stay, the U.S. lawmakers met the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and the island’s defense minister to show their support for the self-governing island democracy and issue a warning to Beijing.
According to Reuters, China’s military sent frigates, bombers and fighter planes to the East China Sea and the area around Taiwan, the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theatre Command said, in a statement released as the lawmakers were holding a news conference in Taipei. “This operation is in response to the recent frequent release of wrong signals by the United States on the Taiwan issue.”
Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the technology hub is a “country of global significance” and its security has implications for the world.
As the U.S. delegation met the Taiwanese government representatives, at least six Chinese aircraft flew into the Taiwanese air defense identification zone (ADIZ), the Taiwanese Defense Ministry announced. The activity involved J-11 and J-16 jets that flew over sea southwest of the island. As the Chinese jets entered Taiwan’s ADIZ, their military broadcasted radio warnings and deployed missile air defense systems.
The unannounced trip and the reference to Taiwan as an independent “country”, whereas China regards the island as one of its provinces, made Beijing quite angry.The United States has no formal relations with Chinese-claimed island, but Washington is the most important international backer and arms supplier of Taiwan, a global manufacturer of semi-conductor chips used in all industries, from cars to smartphones.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has also raised the alert in Taipei: many at the beginning of the Ukrainian war thought Beijing could do the same with Taiwan. However, at this time, the Taiwanese Government has reported no sign that China is about to invade, despite the almost daily PLAAF (People’s Liberation Army Air Force) and PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) activity inside Taiwan’s ADIZ.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has proven that democracies must bolster their alliances and collectively we can defend ourselves from the threats posed by authoritarian nations that seek to disrupt regional peace,” said Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.
The air policing mission carried out by the aircraft depicted in the photos in this article took place as the US delegation, following the Taiwan trip, went to Tokyo, to reaffirm the support to Japan, a key ally in the region, to counter China and North Korea:
After earlier visiting #Taiwan, six US lawmakers on Saturday in Tokyo reaffirmed Japanese Alliance watching China, North Korea
The question of whether the US would intervene in the event of China’s attack on Taiwan remains open
Lawmakers are now leaving #Tokyo#AE503D 09-0540 pic.twitter.com/tb4egWY4l7
Contrary to what most people believe, unless they are involved in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) or take part in real combat operations, U.S. fighters usually don’t carry live weapons.
The F-15Cs involved in the armed patrol belong to the 18th Wing that operates combat ready fleets of HH-60 Pave Hawks, F-15 Eagles, E-3 Sentries and KC-135 Stratotankers, making it the largest combat-ready wing in the U.S. Air Force capable to provide a wide array of missions: counter air, command and control, air refueling and combat search and rescue operations.
.@KadenaAirBase Airmen demonstrated their #airpower capes during a routine wing readiness exercise.
The formation of F-15 Eagles, KC-135 Stratotanker & E-3 Sentry represents the dedicated efforts that ensure Team Kadena is ready to deliver airpower anytime, anywhere. @PACAF pic.twitter.com/UbXv396Gck
— U.S. Air Force (@usairforce) March 7, 2022
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