13:20 GMT +317 November 2019
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    Russian-Chinese air force cooperation

    Sky's the Limit for Joint Russian-Chinese Eurasian Air Defense Zone

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    The commander of the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has signaled China's intention to continue the development of full-fledged cooperation with Russia's Aerospace Defense Forces. Russian military analyst Alexander Khrolenko says the signal of intent is the first step on the road to creating a common air defense in the Eurasian space.

    Speaking to reporters at the opening ceremony of the Aviadarts-2017 international army games in Changchun, China, PLAAF commander Maj. Gen. Ma Xiaotian said that Beijing was looking to develop full-fledged cooperation with the Russian air force.

    Ma emphasized that China and Russia are "friendly neighbors" which "play an important role in the global arena," adding that "in today's complex and volatile situation in the structure of international relations, both countries have common interests and strategic needs."

    The Chinese air force is looking to enhance cooperation in a number of areas, from joint tactical flight exercises to cooperation in the fields of missile defense and logistics, according to the officer. 

    Earlier, Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) commander Col-Gen Viktor Bondarev praised the state of Russian-Chinese air force cooperation, pointing out that relations between the two countries' air forces were "excellent."

    "The Chinese side knows our planes and helicopters, and buys a great deal. I think that in the field of [military] aviation, we have found a balance and continue to work to our mutual benefit in this direction," Bondarev said.

    Russian Aerospace Forces Commander Viktor Bondarev with Chinese colleagues
    Russian Aerospace Forces Commander Viktor Bondarev with Chinese colleagues

    Commenting on the significance of Ma and Bondarev's remarks, RIA Novosti military observer Alexander Khrolenko wrote that it was clear that recent global geopolitical turbulence has pushed the two countries to take the next step from traditional joint economic projects and military-technical cooperation "to the development of joint strategies" affecting all branches of the armed forces.

    "Over Russia and China is a common airspace, which must be protected against a wide range of modern threats, making maximum use of the interaction between the combat aviation and missile defense forces of the two countries," the journalist added.

    And although Moscow and Beijing do not currently have plans for the creation of a classical military bloc, "a common air defense space is more important than any formalities," according to Khrolenko.

    The growing cooperation between the Russian and Chinese air forces is just one component of the military collaboration, the journalist recalled, and the sky may really be the limit so far as future partnership is concerned.

    Earlier this year, Russia began supplying China with its latest Su-35 4++ generation fighters. In the spring, China took delivery of the S-400 surface-to-air missile system.

    According to Khrolenko, in addition to billions in contracts, "these sales mean that the Russian side will train Chinese specialists, share weapons secrets and combat tactics. In the future, it will be possible to create a joint Russian-Chinese air and missile defense area in East Asia, restricted to third countries. Incidentally, later this year, the two countries will hold their second joint missile defense exercises."

    These developments are significant, according to the journalist, since even on their own, the Russian and Chinese air forces have caused headaches for Pentagon planners and military analysts. US observers have written article after article about the growing power of the VKS and the PLAAF's combat potential vis-à-vis the USAF, devoting special attention to Russian and Chinese developments in long-range air-to-air missile systems.

    But the Pentagon's biggest fear, in Khrolenko's view, is that that very soon, "they will no longer be able to designate any country they like as a 'global outcast', and bomb them with impunity."

    And if Russia and China's air power concerns the US on their own, "we can assume that combining their potential would significantly weaken the 'exceptional' capabilities of the US to conduct air operations in the Asia-Pacific and European theaters of operation," the journalist stressed.

    On Sunday, at a grand military parade marking the 90th anniversary of the creation of the People's Liberation Army, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced Beijing's intent to create the most powerful military in the country's history.

    According to Khrolenko, "the main idea of the Chinese leader is that a peaceful life is a reward for any people, while the defense of peace is the main responsibility of the people's army (which, at two million personnel, remains the largest in the world). At the same time, Chinese military considers the global military and political presence and pressure of the US to be a common strategic security threat for both Beijing and Moscow."

    In light of these ambitions, Russia, in the journalist's view, "can and should facilitate the development of this friendly force near its eastern borders, and participate, figuratively speaking, in the construction of a Second Great Wall of China, directed mainly toward the Pacific (and the US military bases there). Much has already been done in this regard."

    Earlier this year, Russia and China signed a road map for military cooperation up to the year 2020. In addition to joint army and naval drills, the two countries' militaries actively participate in one another's joint army and air force games, shows, and exhibitions, and have plans for expanded cooperation to counter the threats posed by terrorism and extremism.

    Ultimately, Khrolenko believes that the increasing intensity of negotiations between Moscow and Beijing "over a whole range of global and regional security problems testifies to the growing trust between the two countries, and the development of military cooperation up to the level of possible joint operations."

    In any case, "the interaction between Russia and China in the area of defense already limits the opportunities for US expansion, and hence, is changing the world," the journalist concluded.


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