China has deployed the newly- acquired Russian made Su-35 fighter jets in its combat mission over the disputed South China Sea to challenge recurring US aerial and naval patrols asserting freedom of navigation and over-flight in region.
The Chinese air force recently sent its Su-35 fighter jets to take part in a joint combat patrol over the South China Sea, the Chinese air force said in a statement.
Th US military is periodically sending warships+ and air force jets to assert freedom of flights and navigation over the South China Sea as China claims most of it.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims over the area.
This is the first time the People's Liberation Army Air Force has made public the deployment of its Su-35s, introduced to China in late 2016, state-run People's Daily reported.
The air force did not reveal when the patrol took place. The release said the multirole fighter jet's participation in combat exercises will help strengthen the air force's long- range operational capability.
The air force will continue pushing forward training to improve combat capabilities, it said.
Officials from Russia's state technology corporation Rostec said earlier that Russia and China signed a contract that was estimated to be worth USD two billion for 24 Su-35s.
The Su-35 is a multirole fighter aircraft that can attack targets on the ground and the sea. The fighter aircraft can significantly improve the combat capability of the air force overseas.
"The appearance of advanced PLA fighter jets, capable of attacking surface combat vessels in this region is sort of a reaction to the provocation by the US," Xu Guangyu, a retired major general and senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told state run Global Times.
Although the air force did not reveal where the jets are deployed, if they land on a South China Sea island that could act as a significant deterrent to any outside forces trying to disturb the regional stability, he said.