Key point: China's People's Liberation Army Air Force is seeing an increase in its combat capabilities due to the Su-35.
The Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E has entered service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) according to the Chinese Ministry of Defense. The advanced Russian-built fourth generation fighter is a significant boost to the PLAAF and could be used to good effect by Beijing in over the South China Sea.
“The Su-35 is a multi-purpose fighter jet capable of air combat and precision strike against land and surface targets,” Senior Colonel Wu Qian, Director General of the Information Office of China's Ministry of National Defense, said during an April 26, 2018 press conference. “Currently, the aviation troop units of the PLA Air Force have been armed with the Su-35 fighters.”
With the jets now in service, the Su-35 would significantly bolster Chinese forces operating over the South China Sea or the Taiwan Straits. Indeed, Beijing has in recent days been conducting exercises in the region near Taiwan, which it considers to be a breakaway province. “Recently, the PLA Air Force dispatched multiple types of warplanes to carry out real combat training exercises in the airspace over the sea to further enhance the capability of safeguarding China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Wu said. “The island the PLA warplanes patrolled around is, of course, China’s Taiwan Island.”.
Wu promised that China would take action if Taiwan were to attempt to formally declare independence. “The series of actions we have taken are targeting the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces and their activities, and are to protect the well-being of the people in Taiwan from being undermined by the ‘Taiwan independence’ conspiracy,” Wu said. “If the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces continue to act recklessly, we will take further actions.”