CHINESE jet fighters have been dispatched to the disputed South China Sea for a “real combat mission” in an apparent warning to the US.
The Su-35 Russian-made advanced fighters were sent to the waterway for joint combat cruise missions, according to the official account of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force.
The PLA Air Force tweeted: "This is a pragmatic action for the air force to fulfil its mission in the new era and conduct a combat training military exercise.”
Xu Guangyu, a retired major general, told China’s state-owned Global Times the move was a “reaction to the provocation by the US” after Washington sent destroyers to the South China Sea last month.
If the Chinese jets land on a South China Sea island, it could act as a major deterrent to rival forces with claims to the disputed waterway, he added.
Mr Xu added: "Apart from the most advanced J-20 - a China-made fourth generation stealth fighter jet - the Su-35 is more advanced than other Chinese fighter jets at this moment.
"We just received a group of jets from Russia last year, and now we can put them into a real combat mission in the South China Sea.
"It also shows that China-Russia military cooperation is solid, mutually beneficial and reliable."