Chinese Jet Threatened U.S. Intelligence Aircraft

A Chinese jet fighter flew dangerously close to a U.S. Navy P-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft near Japan this week in an encounter that highlights China’s continued aggressiveness in the region.

The P-8, a new, militarized Boeing-737 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, was conducting routine surveillance of the Chinese coast over the East China Sea on Monday when the incident occurred, said U.S. defense officials familiar with reports of the encounter.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jeffrey Pool had no immediate comment but said he would provide “an explanation of the event” on Friday.

The defense officials said the Chinese Su-27 interceptor jet flew within 50 feet of the P-8 and then carried out a barrel roll over the top of the aircraft—a move described by officials as dangerous and meant to threaten the surveillance aircraft.

It was the second threatening encounter of a U.S. surveillance aircraft this year. In April, a Russian Su-27 flew within 100 feet of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft during another dangerous intercept over waters north of Japan.

One defense official said the Pentagon’s failure to produce a tough response to the April event likely spurred the Chinese to conduct the similar threatening intercept on Monday.

Chinese military officials have said they oppose all U.S. electronic surveillance flights and described ship-based monitoring of their facilities and territory an encroachment of sovereignty. U.S. military officials have said the monitoring is carried within international airspace and thus does not violate international or Chinese law.

The P-8 that was intercepted by the Su-27 is part of the Navy’s first squadron of new sub hunters deployed to Asia. Six P-8s, that can fire both missiles and torpedoes, are under the command Navy’s Seventh Fleet and are based at Okinawa’s Kadena Air Base. They support the fleet’s maritime surveillance operations as part of the U.S. pivot to Asia.

The P-8s were deployed in December—a month after China declared an air defense identification zone over the East China that encroaches on both Japanese and South Korean maritime zones. The U.S. government said it does not recognize the Chinese defense zone. China has threatened to use force to maintain its control over the area covering most of the East China Sea.

The Navy has described the P-8 as “the most advanced long range anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft in the world.” The jet also conducts maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

The U.S.-China close encounter also is a setback for Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, who has been leading Obama administration efforts to develop closer relations with the Chinese military.

Locklear has sought to play down the growing military threat from China as part of efforts to develop closer cooperation with the Chinese military.

The commander’s dovish policies are being opposed by some in the Pentagon and Air Force who are concerned that the conciliatory approach will appease the Chinese at a time when Beijing has made aggressive territorial claims in the East China Sea and South China Seas.

Rick Fisher, a China military affairs analyst, said increased U.S. surveillance flights near China are part of the United States’ strategy of responding to China’s aggressive imposition of controls in disputed maritime regions.

Fisher said the Chinese objective with the aggressive aerial encounters is to “make U.S. political leaders fear another ‘April 1’ incident.”

In April 2001, a Chinese F-8 interceptor crashed into a U.S. EP-3 surveillance aircraft off the southern China coast, causing the J-8 to crash and nearly causing the crash of the EP-3.

That encounter set off an international crisis after the propeller-driven U.S. aircraft made an emergency landing on China’s Hainan Island and the 24 crew members were imprisoned for 10 days.

In the RC-135 encounter, the U.S. electronic surveillance aircraft was flying near the Russian Far East coast north of Japan on April 23 when an the Russian Su-27 intercepted the jet.

During that encounter, the Russian warplane rolled sideways to reveal its air-to-air missiles and then flew within 100 feet of the RC-135 cockpit. The incident was video recorded by the crew but the Pentagon declined to release the video.

“If such patrols are over shallower waters near to China, another ‘controlled crash’ into the P-8 could also be part of a Chinese intelligence operation to capture the latest U.S. Navy anti-submarine and patrol aircraft,” he said.

Full article: Chinese Jet Threatened U.S. Intelligence Aircraft (Washington Free Beacon)

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