H-6K bombers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force have carried out nighttime sorties encircling the island of Taiwan, a move experts said on Monday will become routine and will send a warning to everyone who attempts to separate the island from China.

The second air group under an aviation regiment of the PLA Air Force was the first unit to conduct nighttime Taiwan island encirclement flights since the commissioning of the H-6K bomber, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Monday.

“We have the capability to sortie at any time and anywhere, be it at day, at night, or before dawn,” Wei Xiaogang, an instructor at the air group, said in the CCTV report.

It is a rare occasion that the public is informed about nighttime encirclement flights around the island of Taiwan by H-6K bombers. In May 2018, the defense authority on the island of Taiwan said it had for the first time spotted such a PLA operation, but there was little information afterward, observers said.

Such nighttime PLA activities around the island of Taiwan are expected to become routine, Fu Qianshao, a Chinese mainland military aviation expert, told the Global Times on Monday.

The H-6K’s nighttime Taiwan island encirclement flights demonstrated the bomber’s increasing all-weather, round-the-clock capabilities, Fu said.

Provocations by “Taiwan independence” secessionists and external interference forces could also take place at night, Fu said, citing then-US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s evening landing on the island of Taiwan in August 2022. “That is why the PLA must be ready to complete alert patrols and combat missions no matter the time,” Fu said.

While a nighttime sortie is more challenging to pilots, it also applies significantly more pressure to adversaries, because the latter would have to remain on high alert passively all the time, analysts said.

It showed the PLA’s capabilities in safeguarding national sovereignty and unity, and sent a warning to those who conduct secessionist activities, Fu said.

In addition to encircling the island of Taiwan at night, the bomber air group also set many records when its H-6Ks broke the first island chain and carried out far sea exercises over the Pacific Ocean more than 100 times, conducted combat patrols in the South China Sea, and integrated with forces on land, at sea, in the air and in space, CCTV reported.

“We don’t recognize the so-called island chain. To us, [those missions] are just far sea sorties,” Mutefa Aili, a squadron leader at the air group who has experience dealing with close-in disturbances by foreign aircraft during missions, said.

Also, in a joint naval and air exercise in 2018, the unit’s H-6K for the first time hit a genuine warship target with a new type of missile. In 2022, the unit developed a bomb trajectory calculation software that reduced the time required by 80 percent and raised accuracy by 20 percent, the report said.

The H-6K bomber is capable of carrying a wide variety of munitions including the KD-20 land attack missile, the YJ-12 supersonic anti-ship missile and the YJ-21 hypersonic missile, according to publicly available information.