Last Friday, a J-16 Chinese jet fighter performed a dangerously aggressive maneuver, flying directly in front of an American surveillance plane in international airspace over the South China Sea.
The incident, which was captured on video from inside the American aircraft’s cockpit, has been labeled “unprofessional” and “an unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” by the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. The Chinese fighter pilot flew in front of the nose of the U.S. Air Force RC-135, forcing the American plane to navigate through its wake turbulence.
Chinese fighter jet comes within 400 feet of US Air Force plane in “aggressive maneuver” 😳🛩️
— Daily Loud (@DailyLoud) May 31, 2023
The video released by INDOPACOM reveals the Chinese jet streaking across the flight path of the American aircraft at a distance of approximately 400 feet. As a result, the U.S. aircraft experienced significant shaking as it flew through the turbulence.
This incident is not an isolated occurrence. American aircraft and ships regularly face harassment from Chinese counterparts in the international airspace and waters of the South China Sea. The U.S. conducts routine operations in the region to counter China’s expansive territorial claims.
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command emphasized that their operations were conducted safely and in accordance with international law. They reaffirmed their commitment to continue flying, sailing, and operating responsibly wherever international law permits. The U.S. expects all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to abide by international airspace regulations.
A senior U.S. defense official revealed that such incidents appear to be coordinated and are increasing in frequency. They stated that the harassment is not the work of independent pilots but rather part of a larger pattern observed in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Taiwan Strait. Chinese military assets have been engaging in unsafe maneuvers that could lead to miscalculations or unsafe incidents.
The U.S. plans to address its concerns regarding this incident through diplomatic and military channels. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is currently visiting Asia for meetings with regional defense leaders, will not have the opportunity to meet with his Chinese counterpart as China declined the U.S. offer. However, the senior defense official clarified that the release of the video was not tied to this declined meeting, but rather a result of the standard declassification and communication processes.