China air force holds rare drills over Beijing no-fly zone

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's air force on Friday conducted drills over Beijing for "routine flight training", the defence ministry said, an unusual move in a security-conscious city that has an almost permanent no-fly zone above its main urban areas.

The day-long exercises are part of the flight training for the 5th Air Force unit, air force spokesman Shen Jinke said in a statement on the ministry's website.

"Similar flight training will be organised and continued in a timely way based on necessity," Shen said.

The ministry provided no other details, and it was not clear how many or what type of aircraft were involved, though a Reuters reporter saw two helicopters flying over the downtown area. Police helicopters also occasionally fly over the city.

Last week a Russian passenger aircraft took a wrong turn after taking off from Beijing's main airport and briefly strayed close to the central business district, surprising residents, according to state media.

In 2009, air force jets flew over Beijing's central Tiananmen Square for celebrations to mark the 60th founding of the People's Republic of China.

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