The US Defense Department released a series of declassified images and videos highlighting the “unsafe and unprofessional” behavior of Chinese fighter pilots toward their American counterparts in international airspace.
(Bloomberg) — The US Defense Department released a series of declassified images and videos highlighting the “unsafe and unprofessional” behavior of Chinese fighter pilots toward their American counterparts in international airspace.
The 15 incidents above the East and South China Seas show People’s Liberation Army pilots coming within some 20 feet (6 meters) of US aircraft, in some instances cutting in front of them. In one episode, a fighter jet performed a barrel roll under a US plane, forcing the pilot to take defensive measures to prevent a collision, the department said.
The US military has counted more than 180 such incidents over the past two years, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner said on Tuesday, adding that was more than in the decade leading up to 2021. “And when you take into account cases of coercive and risky PLA intercepts against other states, the number increases to nearly 300 cases against US, ally and partner aircraft over the last two years.”
China hit back at Ratner’s comments, with Liu Pengyu, spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, saying the US should stop spreading disinformation. He also said other countries should “stop undermining China’s national security.”
Defense chiefs released the images taken between January 2022 and last month before handing Congress its China Military Power Report, which will highlight an “increasing trend of coercive and risky operational behavior by the PLA.”
The videos and pictures show what the report will describe as “unsafe, unprofessional, and other behaviors that seek to impinge upon the ability of the United States and other nations to safely conduct operations where international law allows,” the Defense Department said.
Here’s a timeline of the declassified events, with pictures and videos:
Jan. 11, 2022: A PLA fighter jet crosses in front of a US aircraft at a distance of 100 yards over the South China Sea, forcing it to fly through the Chinese plane’s wake.
April 29, 2022: Four PLA aircraft spent five hours intercepting a US plane over the East China Sea, with one coming within 75 feet.
May 24, 2022: A Chinese jet sped toward a US aircraft, crossing just beneath its nose and causing the American pilot to lose sight of the PLA fighter. The US pilot put some distance between the two aircraft, but the Chinese jet approached again.
June 8, 2022: Four PLA aircraft spent hours buzzing a US plane, coming within 40 feet while occupants snapped photos of the US crew.
June 23, 2022: A Chinese pilot repeatedly flew above and below a US aircraft over the South China Sea. When the US operator radioed the PLA jet, the Chinese pilot responded with foul language.
Dec. 21, 2022: A PLA jet flew within 20 feet of the nose of a US aircraft over the South China Sea. The maneuver forced the US pilot to take evasive measures to avoid a collision.
Jan. 11, 2023: A Chinese jet flew alongside a US plane at a distance of some 30 feet over the South China Sea.
Feb. 7, 2023: A PLA plane came within 20 feet of its US counterpart, also over the South China Sea.
Feb. 15, 2023: A Chinese jet shadowed a US plane at a distance of about 70 feet over the same body of water.
March 2, 2023: A PLA pilot intercepted a US plane over the East China Sea, coming within 50 feet.
May 25, 2023: A PLA plane flew in front of the nose of a US aircraft, making it fly through its rocky wake.
June 11, 2023: Over the East China Sea, a Chinese jet came within 25 feet of a US aircraft.
July 12, 2023: A PLA fighter jet deployed eight flares while just 900 feet from a US aircraft. The incident occurred over the East China Sea.
Aug. 10, 2023: A Chinese pilot closed in on a US plane at high speed, then rolled around and under the aircraft, forcing the US crew to “perform defensive procedures to prevent a collision.”
Sept. 21, 2023: A PLA jet flew within 50 feet of a US aircraft over the South China Sea.
(Adds China reax in par 4)
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