22 August 2014

Pentagon Says Chinese Air Force J-11B Fighter Jet Confronted American Navy Plane in Dangerously Close Proximity

Helene Cooper, “Pentagon Says Chinese Fighter Jet Confronted American Navy Plane,” New York Times, 22 August 2014.

WASHINGTON — A Chinese fighter jet flew within 30 feet of a Navy surveillance and reconnaissance plane this week in international airspace just off the Chinese coast, the Pentagon said Friday.

The encounter, known as an intercept, was “very, very close, very dangerous,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

The Pentagon filed a diplomatic complaint with the People’s Liberation Army on Friday morning, Defense Department officials said. As of Friday afternoon, it had not received a reply.

The episode, which occurred on Tuesday, began with the Chinese warplane flying closely underneath the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon. It then moved parallel to the naval plane, with the wingtips of the two aircraft separated by fewer than 30 feet. Then the planes were nose to nose.

As a final maneuver, the Chinese fighter executed a barrel roll, apparently to show off its weapons payload to the American pilot. … Admiral Kirby called it an aggressive move.

“We have registered our strong concerns to the Chinese about the unsafe and unprofessional intercept, which posed a risk to the safety and the well-being of the air crew and was inconsistent with customary international law,” he said.

The intercept is bound to increase tensions between the Pentagon and the Chinese military….

Earlier this year, China refused to invite Japan to a naval parade it hosted, which the Defense Department then boycotted as well. One American defense official lamented the episode as “so totally high school.”

This time, the encounter was more serious, particularly given that a Chinese fighter jet collided with a United States Navy spy plane in April 2001 in the skies above Hainan Island. …


Christopher C. Cavas, “Chinese Fighter Buzzes US Patrol Aircraft–Pentagon: Intercept is ‘Very Dangerous, Very Unprofessional’,” Defense News, 22 August 2014.

…The interception was “very close, very dangerous … pretty aggressive and very unprofessional,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters.

The Chinese aircraft, a Shenyang J-11B Flanker B from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, made a number of close passes to the P-8A Poseidon, a military version of the well-known Boeing 737 jetliner.

The interception took place about 135 miles east of Hainan Island, Pentagon officials said, noting that the area in which, per international law, military activities may be conducted “as an exercise of the freedoms of navigation and overflight.”

“On three different occasions, the Chinese J-11 crossed directly under the US aircraft with one pass having only 50-100 feet separation between the two aircraft,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

“The Chinese jet also passed the nose of the P-8 at 90 degrees with its belly toward the P-8 to show its weapons load out. In doing so, the [Chinese] pilot was unable to see the P-8, further increasing the potential for a collision,” the Pentagon said. “The Chinese pilot then flew directly under and alongside the P-8 bringing their wingtips within 20 feet and then, before he stabilized his fighter he conducted a roll over the P-8 passing within 45 feet.” …

“This incident is the most recent in a rising trend of nonstandard, unprofessional and unsafe intercepts of US aircraft that we have observed since the end of 2013,” the Pentagon statement said.

“Based on our observations, the Chinese intercepting aircraft appear to have originated from the same unit in Hainan as other close intercepts that occurred in March, April and May. We are concerned that the intercepting crews from that unit are acting aggressively and demonstrating a lack of regard for the safety of our aircrews.”