A U.S. Air Force RC-135S Cobra Ball flew near northeast China and the Korean Peninsula the same day North Korea observed its founding anniversary. The move may be unprecedented. U.S. spy planes have flown missions in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea and have been deployed to monitor North Korea. Wednesday’s flight may mark the first time the plane flew close to northern Chinese territory. Aviation tracker Aircraft Spots published data of map showed the plane flying over the Yellow Sea on Wednesday morning, South Korean news service News 1 reported.
The United States may be concerned the Chinese military could soon conduct new missile tests.Tensions have grown between the United States and China as the two countries remain at odds over issues ranging from defense to the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, the Pentagon said China plans to double its nuclear stockpile in the next 10 years. The bombs would be designed for loading on ballistic missiles. Last year, during an October military parade, China displayed its DF-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The Boeing RC-135S Cobra Ball is a measurement and signature intelligence MASINT collector equipped with special electro-optical instruments designed to observe ballistic missile flights at long range. The Cobra Ball monitors missile-associated signals and tracks missiles during boost and re-entry phases to provide reconnaissance for treaty verification and theater ballistic missile proliferation. The aircraft are extensively modified C-135Bs. The right wing and engines are traditionally painted black to reduce sun glare for tracking cameras.
The RC-135S Cobra Ball flies Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed missions of national priority to collect optical and electronic data on ballistic targets. This data is intended to support arms treaty compliance verification, and development of U.S. strategic defense and theater missile defense concepts. The RC-135S is a militarized Boeing 707 civilian airliner and is equipped with a sophisticated array of optical and electronic sensors, recording media, and communications equipment.