U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to visit Taiwan in August. Although no specific roadmap has been confirmed, Beijing has reacted strongly and implied that it could not rule out military action.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Military has repeatedly warned Nancy Pelosi against visiting Taiwan. However, the Global Times’ official WeChat account with the name “Private Council” predicts that if Pelosi visits Taiwan, China will deploy J-16 and even J-20 warplanes to intercept Pelosi’s plane over the East China Sea, and J-16D electronic warplanes will be responsible for supporting the mission.
The “Private Council” published an article on July 28, saying that the CCP military had mixed reactions to Ms. Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
The article said that if the plane from Washington flew directly to Taipei, the distance would be about 7,850 miles. With the U.S. military announcing the aircraft deployment, the first thing that comes to mind is the C-17 transport aircraft, which has relatively complete electronic warfare equipment and certain self-defense capabilities. However, if the C-17 flew directly from Washington to Taipei Songshan Airport, it must refuel midway. The C-17 can refuel in the air, but refueling in the air is riskier.
Additionally, other executive aircraft, such as the C-37A modified from the Gulfstream 550, have a maximum range of 6,300 miles. In comparison, the C-37B has a maximum range of 6,700 miles, and the executive aircraft Boeing 737 C-40 has a maximum range of 9,000 km.
Air Force One can perform this task with its more extended range and more electronic countermeasures. Still, this aircraft is only used by the president of the United States of America, and it is unlikely that Pelosi will use it.
Another option for Pelosi is to take a break and then fly from bases in Japan or South Korea to Taipei. In June 2021, three U.S. senators led a 10-member group of Republicans and Democrats on a three-hour “lightning” visit to Taiwan. At that time, a C-17A bearing the number 5105 landed at Songshan Airport, Taipei.
It is said that the C-17 took off from Osan Air Base in South Korea and flew directly to Songshan Taipei.
The article said that whether flying directly or from bases in Japan or South Korea, Pelosi’s plane will pass through the East China Sea near China and may give the PLA military access and interception. Ms. Pelosi’s route is within the radius of the PLA military’s land-based warplanes. At that time, J-16 and J-20, under the command of early warning aircraft, could coordinate together and follow closely to intercept.
At this time, Ms. Pelosi’s plane would not be in violation of international law but will be warned and intercepted before her plane is about to enter Taiwan’s airspace.
The U.S. military can send troops to escort from two directions. One is from Japan’s Okinawa base. The other is to send the Reagan aircraft carrier near or east of the island of Taiwan, then send the carrier’s aircraft to escort it. According to Taiwanese media, when U.S. lawmakers visited Taiwan in 2021, The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command also deployed the USS Ronald Reagan strike group off the east coast of Taiwan to ensure the three legislators’ safety. In addition, the air defense systems deployed by the Taiwanese military on the island and the outer islands can track and monitor the PLA military.
However, China has J-16D electronic warfare aircraft to support suppression and surface-to-air missile forces to intercept U.S. aircraft carriers.
Another possibility is that Pelosi will fly to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam to reduce the risk of PLA interception, then fly east to west from Guam to Taipei. Or she could make a connecting flight from other directions, then enter from the east side of the island of Taiwan. This relatively zigzag route allows aircraft to enter Taiwan from the east, which is relatively far from China, making it difficult for China to intercept U.S. escort ships.
The article said the U.S. side can still send aircraft from bases and aircraft carriers in Okinawa to escort. Still, if the U.S. chooses this way, it means that the U.S. side has changed from defending Taiwan to furtively visiting Taiwan. Moreover, the Chinese military’s air power can reach the island of Taiwan’s eastern part, so the United States needs to choose other measures.
The article also said that, as a high-value target, the plane carrying Ms. Pelosi was vulnerable to attack. However, the U.S. military would not act unless the Chinese military wanted to take Ms. Pelosi’s life. In this case, the Chinese military intervention was enough to provide a strong deterrent to Ms. Pelosi.