By Tenzin Dharpo
A Shenyang J-11 Chinese fighter in action. file photo
DHARAMSHALA, Aug. 17: The Peoples Liberation Army’s Air Force has reportedly increased the number of fighter jets as well as fighter exercises in Tibet. The rise in the Air Force movements is seen as Beijing’s preparedness in the event of any escalation in the tension with India.
The Chinese airbases in Tibet have seen rise in the number of fighters in the recent months; the Lhasa-Gonkar base alone risen to a 25 fighter fleet adding to the total number of fighter planes in Tibet to 48, many of which are the Shenyang J-11 fourth generation fighter jets known also as the “super weapon” and are the equivalent of American and European made Super Hornet, Euro-fighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale.
Chinese Air Force TU-154 aircraft used for surveillance has also been deployed over Tibet.
The number of sorties or exercises by Chinese fighters has also drastically increased. A direct parallel could be drawn of the standoff in Doklam, which began over few months ago; the number of sorties rose to 268 in May, 164 in June and 166 in July in stark contrast to 32 in February, 19 in March and 17 in April.
The PLAAF was established at around the same time when Chinese forces first began invading Tibet in 1949. The largest Air force in Asia as of 2016 has over 398,000 personnel and 3000 aircrafts, more than India but significantly smaller than the Russian and the American Air forces in terms of both quality and the quantity of aircrafts. The PLAAF has till date been deployed in the Korean War, Vietnam War and the Sino-Vietnam war.
UK economist and politician Meghnad Desai earlier in the month said that the Doklam row could escalate into an all out war between the two nations beginning at the plateau and unfolding in various other theatres of war.