Chinese Fighter Pilot Performs “Unsafe Maneuver” During Intercept of U.S. Aircraft

January 2, 2023

The PLAN [Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy] pilot flew an unsafe maneuver by flying in front of and within 20 feet of the nose of the RC-135 …

The United States Indo-Pacific Command in a statement describing an encounter between Chinese and American military planes over the South China Sea on Dec. 21; the U.S. says this interception could have caused a collision.

Why It Matters: The “unsafe maneuver” performed by the pilot of the Chinese Navy jet forced the pilot of the U.S. reconnaissance aircraft “to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision,” according to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s statement on the encounter – which also shared footage of the “unsafe intercept.”

  • The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said its aircraft “was lawfully conducting routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace” at the time of this occurrence.
  • In response, a spokesperson for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Southern Theater Command said: “We sternly demand the US side to restrain the operations of its front-line air and naval troops, strictly abide by relevant international laws and agreements, and prevent any accidental event at sea and in the air.” China also released what they say is footage of the occurrence from the Chinese plane’s perspective.
  • Context: China claims much of the South China Sea as its own, however, the U.S. does not recognize “these territorial claims and routinely conducts operations there, including freedom of navigation operations through the South China Sea,” CNN reports.

An excerpt from the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s full statement:

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Joint Force is dedicated to a free and open Indo-Pacific region and will continue to fly, sail and operate at sea and in international airspace with due regard for the safety of all vessels and aircraft under international law. We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law.

USINDOPACOM Statement on Unsafe Intercept of U.S. aircraft over South China Sea

US says Chinese intercept could have caused air collision (The Associated Press)

U.S. Says Chinese Fighter Jet Flew Dangerously Close to American Plane (The New York Times)

by Jenna Lee,