The Chinese government is confirming for the first time it has deployed fighter jets to Woody Island in the disputed South China Sea, according to state media.

Chinese media, citing footage aired by the official state broadcaster, said Beijing has deployed J-11B fighters to the island in the contested Paracel chain.

Fighters were spotted on the island in 2016 and again in April of this year, but the Chinese government never officially confirmed it.

But last week China Central Television (CCTV) made the confirmation as part of a report about the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s increasing capabilities.

The footage showed fighters landing, taking off and conducting drills, apparently over the South China Sea. It also showed at least one fighter being placed in a sealed hangar.

In the past China was reluctant to station fighters on the island due to the harsh tropical elements, but “the thermostabilized hangar boosts the jet fighters’ durability and resistance to the island’s humidity and high temperatures,” said one report.

In addition to fighter jets, China has maintained HQ-9 surface-to-air missile systems on Woody Island and has deployed anti-ship cruise missiles there on at least one occasion. [source]

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