16:57 GMT +325 March 2019
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    Chinese Air Force personnel stand in front of a Chinese-made J-10 jet fighter.

    Chinese Jets Drill at High Altitude Near Western Border After Engine Upgrades

    © AP Photo / Kin Cheung
    Military & Intelligence
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    Recent footage of People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) jets flying in western China have caused Chinese military analysts to asses that the country is increasing its military presence near the border with India, and that the country has overcome some technical hurdles to become a more effective mountain combat force.

    Xian JH-7 fighter-bombers, Chengdu J-10 multirole fighters and J-11 air superiority fighters flew at high altitudes above snow-capped mountains, signaling that the aircraft were conducting exercises over southwestern China, the South China Morning Post reported Thursday. The video was released by the PLAAF Monday.

    The jets conducted exercises to not only target dummy rivals, the head of PLAAF Western Theater Command said in the video, but also to "focus on acquiring useful and effective combat skills."

    "The video showed that the engines in Chinese warplanes have been improved in terms of stability over complex geography," analyst Song Zhongping told SCMP. "It also signaled that China has set up a highly specialized air wing in the country's west."

    The successful flights show that the planes' new Russian engines have helped overcome previous technical failures at high altitudes, the Hong-Kong based newspaper noted.

    In 2015, a J-10 aircraft lost engine power after cruising above the 3,000 meter altitude level, forcing the pilot to eject to safety, China's state-owned China Central Television said at the time.
    The third-generation J-10 and J-11 fleets have been modernized with Russia's AL-31F aircraft engines to allow higher altitude flight.

    The Chinese jets' ability to take off, fly and land at high altitudes over the Himalayan Mountains makes India's air force "less effective," according to Leung Kwok-leung. Last year Indian and Chinese forces engaged in a major standoff at the Sino-Indian border.


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    J-11, J-10, PLAAF, India, China
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