A Chinese fighter jet intercepted a US reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea last week and performed a ‘dangerous maneuver’, forcing the US plane to take evasive action, according to the Indo Command. -pacific, the command responsible for overseeing US military operations in the region.
On December 21, a Chinese Navy J-11 fighter jet flew within 20 feet of the nose of an RC-135 Rivet Joint, a US Air Force reconnaissance aircraft with about 30 people on board. In response, the RC-135 had to perform “evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision,” INDOPACOM said in a statement Thursday.
The RC-135 was in international airspace over the South China Sea and “lawfully conducting routine operations”, INDOPACOM said.
Video of the incident from INDOPACOM shows the J-11 flying through the nose of the RC-135. As the two planes close in, a defense official said it was ‘unlikely’ the Chinese plane was able to maintain safe visual separation from the larger and heavier US plane, which was maintaining its course and its speed. The RC-135 then takes evasive action to avoid a collision, descending away from the Chinese jet.
The majority of air interactions, including those between the United States and China, are conducted in a safe and professional manner, the official said. But in cases like this incident, when deemed dangerous, the United States responds through diplomatic and military channels through lines of communication with Beijing.
“We intend to do so in this case,” the official said.
China claims much of the South China Sea as part of its territorial waters, including numerous islands in the disputed body of water, some of which have been militarized by Beijing.
The United States does not recognize these territorial claims and regularly conducts operations there, including freedom of navigation operations across the South China Sea.
“The U.S. Indo-Pacific Joint Force is dedicated to a free and open Indo-Pacific region and will continue to fly, navigate and operate at sea and in international airspace with due regard to the safety of all ships and aircraft in under international law,” the statement read.