China unveils new ‘500kg Sky-thunder’ precision guided missile system after US approves sale of 66 F-16 fighter planes to Taiwan
A news report in Xinhua states that China yesterday tested a 500kg precision-guided air-to-surface missile system called the “Tianlei 500“, which roughly translates to “Sky Thunder.” China unveiled the missile system after the United States approved the sales of 66 F-16 fighter planes to the small island nation of Taiwan.
The US had approved the sale of F-16 to Taiwan after China increased its naval warships movements in the South China Sea. The announcement of Sky Thunder comes amidst the heightened tensions with Taiwan and the US over Hong Kong and the escalating South China Sea dispute.
Weighing in at 500Kg, the Tianlei 500 air-to-surface rocket can carry a payload of six differing munitions that can focus on separate targets.
The island nation of Taiwan officially called the ROC has always been under severe threat of attack from China. Earlier in the month, China started naval drills in the East China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. Beijing’s spokesperson for the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command, Senior Colonel Zhang Chunhu declared the naval exercises were “a necessary move responding to the current security situation in the Taiwan Strait and were meant to safeguard national sovereignty.” Beijing has long held that Taiwan belongs to China and it aims to bring the island under Chinese control.
Taiwanese government on Monday stated that it will be curbing the travel of Hong Kong citizens to Taiwan in an effort to prevent Chinese spies from entering the country. Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council had said that it was “strengthening the management” of Hong Kong and Macau residents who are originally from mainland China, or who are the current or previous party, government or military officials, and aimed to prevent them from “carrying out infiltration, united front, disturbance or spying activities”.
The recent diplomatic visit of US Democratic Representative Eliot Engel of New York and Republican Representative Michael McCaul of Texas to Taiwan fueled China’s anger.
The Chinese-state controlled Global Times has been very vociferous about the US deal to sell F-16s to Taiwan. In an editorial, it said, “While the deal was approved by the Trump administration last year and a formal signing was expected to take place sooner or later, its announcement at this particular time is believed to be yet another US provocation and a step on the red line of the Taiwan question, which further risks confrontation.”
The 66 F-16 fighter jets sale by American aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin in the biggest arms sale to the Taiwan in recent years.