25 August 2014

Going Maverick: Lessons from China’s Buzzing of a U.S. Navy Aircraft

Andrew S. Erickson and Emily de La Bruyere,Going Maverick: Lessons from China’s Buzzing of a U.S. Navy Aircraft,” China Real Time Report (中国实时报), Wall Street Journal,  25 August 2014.

Many have evoked the film “Top Gun” in describing a recent confrontation between a Chinese J-11 fighter and U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane off of Hainan Island in the South China Sea. Based on U.S. accounts of the encounter, that movie parallel is apt – with the very important distinction that Hainan is not Hollywood.

The encounter occurred at approximately 9 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 19, during what Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby termed “routine” operations in international airspace 220 kilometers (about 135 miles) off Hainan Island’s coast.

According to the Pentagon’s Friday statement, the Chinese jet first crossed under the U.S. aircraft at close range, before flying up at a 90-degree angle directly in front of the American P-8 – displaying a belly loaded with weapons. After swinging its wingtips “within 20 feet” of the U.S. plane, the Chinese jet then flew a barrel roll over the P-8, passing within 45 feet of the patrol plane’s top.

The “Top Gun” similarity ends with that roll. …

  • Tim

    If U.S. would tolerate surveillance aircraft of any other country within 135 miles of US territory?!

  • DivineLegend

    As a panelist and leading expert on international relations, You know well that China will not go to war with the United States, and vice-versa; how hard must you try to portray the opposite?

  • V H

    Who says China wouldn’t go to war with the United States? Nearly every day the Chinese people are being fed this diet of “China Strong”. And with economic events in China spinning wildly every day, the Chinese leadership is seeking new ways to deflect the populations attention from the growing crisis at home.

    Creating an enemy abroad is the first tactic that authoritarian countries use to keep their populations in line. Events leading to war can easily slip out of China’s control.