China adds yet another weapon in its arsenal for disputed islands, analysts...

China adds yet another weapon in its arsenal for disputed islands, analysts say

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The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis transits the South China Sea, March 3, 2019 (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Grant G. Grady)

WASHINGTON —  China is working to develop an electronic warfare aircraft designed to intercept and thwart U.S. military communications in the event of a showdown in the South China Sea, according to new reports.

A photo of the experimental aircraft appeared on China Central Television on Wednesday and military analysts interviewed by TMN said it appears to be designed to accurately target electronic suppression and jamming on an adversary’s communications.

Perfecting the aircraft would be one more scientific advancement that would give Beijing a competitive edge in peer competition with the United States, defense analysts said.

“The new variation is unlike the others: It has what seems to be a hemispheric radar dome under its chin, two large antennas on each side of the plane, an antenna on each side of the tailfin and an electronic warfare pod on top of the tailfin. The devices on the plane mean it could effectively monitor enemies’ radio communication and intercept their radar signals,” GlobalSecurity.org wrote.

The aircraft is being designed for use in the South China and East China seas, two areas where Beijing has taken control of islands claimed by several nations and, in some cases, militarized them.

Pentagon officials said Friday that were aware of the reports but declined to comment on intelligence matters.

To counter China’s claims, the U.S. and other nations regularly conduct naval sailings and air sorties near the contested islands as freedom of navigation operations.

The new plane appears to be the latest in the line of medium-sized tactical transport planes developed by China, the defense analysts said. The last versions were focused on early warning, reconnaissance and anti-anti-submarine duties, they said.

Admiral Philip Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told reporters on Thursday in Singapore that China continues to accelerate its military activities in the South China Sea.

“There has been more activity with ships, fighters and bombers over the last year than in previous years, absolutely,” Davidson said, according to news reports.

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