US accuses Chinese fighter jet of ‘unnecessarily aggressive maneuver’

A Chinese fighter jet passes across the nose of a USAF surveillance aircraft.
Photo from USAF video footage.

On May 26, 2023, a Chinese J-16 fighter jet performed what the United States has characterized as an “unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” during the intercept of a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea.

Video footage of the incident released by the USAF shows the Chinese J-16 fighter passing directly in front of the US aircraft, resulting in the RC-135 flying through its wake turbulence.

Video Footage: U.S. Indo-Pacific Command

This maneuver was considered to be unsafe and unprofessional by the USAF, and they claim it could have had potentially dangerous consequences.

In a statement, the US Indo-Pacific Command said that the RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft was conducting safe and routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace, in accordance with international law.

The U.S. government has condemned the Chinese jet’s actions, and it has called on China to respect international norms of air safety. In response, China has defended its actions, saying that the Chinese jet was simply conducting a routine intercept of a foreign aircraft in its airspace.

However, the U.S. government has said that the Chinese jet was flying in international airspace at the time of the incident.


Previous incident December 2022

This is not the first time that China has been accused of conducting aggressive intercepts of U.S. aircraft.

On December 21, 2022, a USAF Boeing RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft operating over the South China Sea was forced to take evasive action after a Chinese J-11 fighter aircraft flew dangerously close to it during an interception.

The US Indo-Pacific Command have stated that during the incident which occurred in international airspace on December 21, the Chinese fighter jet flew to within 20 feet of the nose of the USAF Boeing RC-135.

A Chinese fighter aircraft flies dangerously close to a US Air Force Recon aircraft.
Above: December 21, 2022 incident. Photo Credit: US Air Force

Rising tensions

The Chinese government’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea is a growing concern for the United States and its allies.

China has been increasingly assertive in its claims to the South China Sea, and it has been conducting military exercises in the region.

The U.S. government has said that it will continue to fly, sail, and operate in the South China Sea, and it has warned China against taking any actions that could escalate tensions in the region.

The United States and China have been engaged in a strategic ‘stand-off’ competition for some time, and the South China Sea is one of the key areas of conflict.

The United States sees the South China Sea as a vital waterway for trade and commerce, and it is concerned about China’s growing military presence in the region.

China, on the other hand, sees the South China Sea as its backyard, and it is determined to protect its claims to the area.

The May 26 incident comes as a further sign of the growing tensions between the United States and China in the region.

By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
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