In September, the activity of refueling crafts from Guam Air Base in the United States increased, which were used to oversee the tanks of surveillance aircraft. Most of the planes appeared to be flying over the South China Sea – 13 while over the Yellow Sea, six planes flew over the East China Sea.
The data was released this week by the South China Sea Strategic Situation Research Initiative.
In particular, it said the increase in refueling activity could indicate that the United States is preparing for more long-haul flights.
The think tank said the move was “unusual” as refueling vehicles were dispatched from Guam airport.
Their departure from Kadena Airport in the United States, located in nearby Japan, would have been even more economical.
It added: “Such measures are being prepared in extreme conditions for long-distance refueling in the future, so more attention should be paid.”
The SCSBI said the operation shows that the South China Sea is a major US hub.
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In one case, an American plane is said to have changed its code, so it appeared to be an aircraft from the Philippines before changing again.
Another time, the RC-135S spy plane pretended to be a Malaysian plane and made a trip near Chinese airspace, Think Tank said.
In some cases, American aircraft did not operate their radio transponders.
The SCSBI said last month that US military aircraft had confirmed the use of fake electronic identification codes.
Think Tank said the move was “best practical value” for the U.S. military because the spy plane would most likely look like a civilian plane anyway.
However, it added: “This behavior undoubtedly adds significant risks and destabilizing factors to global aviation security, leading to misconceptions and endangering genuine civilian passenger aircraft, especially countries that impersonate.”
On September 1, 1983, 269 civilian passengers and crew of a Korean passenger plane were shot down by a Soviet Sukhoi SU-15 fighter jet.
The Boeing 747 passenger jet was flying over the Soviet island of Sakal at the time, but was mistaken for a US RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, the SCSBI said.
The South China Sea has caused tensions between the United States and China throughout the year.
Both countries are conducting military exercises in the region, and the United States is conducting official engagements with nearby Taiwan, which has angered Beijing.