US military using private spy planes to keep tabs on China, think tank says

US military using private spy planes to keep tabs on China, think tank says

Privately operated reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft have been sent to Asia to help the US keep watch on Chinese activities close to its maritime territory, according to a Beijing-based think tank.

The South China Sea Probing Initiative said using the spy planes would help boost the US military’s operational capabilities in the region.

In a report published on Wednesday, the think tank said three such surveillance aircraft had been sent to Okinawa in Japan and Manila in the Philippines since March.

A Tenax Aerospace CL-604 landed at the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa on March 30, and patrolled around the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea on April 7, the report said.

It was then sent on a mission over the South China Sea on July 16, with a stop at the Clark Air Base in the Philippines for refuelling.From March to November 11, the aircraft made 139 flights to the East China Sea, the Yellow Sea and the Taiwan Strait, and 17 flights to the South China Sea, the think tank said.