Home » Aviation » UPDATED: Chinese Aircraft May Have Conducted an Unsafe Intercept of U.S. Surveillance Plane Last Week

UPDATED: Chinese Aircraft May Have Conducted an Unsafe Intercept of U.S. Surveillance Plane Last Week

A Boeing RC-135 Rivet Joint. US Air Force Photo

A Boeing RC-135 Rivet Joint. US Air Force Photo

This post has been updated to include additional information from the Department of Defense.

Two Chinese military aircraft intercepted an U.S. Air Force surveillance plane in a Sept. 15 incident in a potentially “unsafe” manner, a Pentagon official told USNI News.

“The department is reviewing a report from U.S. [Pacific Command] regarding a Sept. 15 intercept of a U.S. RC-135 by two JH-7 aircraft from the People’s Republic of China,” Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Bill Urban told USNI News on Tuesday.
“One of the maneuvers conducted by a PRC aircraft during the intercept was perceived as unsafe by the RC-135 aircrew. At this point there is no indication that there was a ‘near collision’.”

USNI News understands one of the Xian JH-7 Flounder fighters crossed about 500 feet in front of the nose of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft.

The Pentagon made clear it wasn’t admonishing China for the intercept yet.

“No final characterization of the intercept has been determined at this time. The department is reviewing U.S. PACOM’s report and will take appropriate action,” Urban said.
“Over the past year, we have seen improvements in PRC behavior, specifically the safety and professionalism with which they intercept our aircraft. Further, DoD has robust, existing mechanisms to deal with incidents between our operating forces.”

In an earlier Tuesday press conference, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said “there’s no indication this was a near collision but the report that came back was that the plane operated in an unsafe fashion.”

The incident, which occurred in the Yellow Sea between the Chinese Shandong and Korean peninsula, was first reported on Tuesday in a story in the Free Beacon.

The Defense Department’s comments on the intercept contrast sharply from an incident in 2014 where a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) J-11 fighter buzzed a Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft.

Then Defense Department spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby issued a condemnation of the “unprofessional” pass.

“We have registered our strong concerns to the Chinese about the unsafe and unprofessional intercept, which posed a risk to the safety and the well-being of the aircrew, and was inconsistent with customary international law,” Kirby said at the time.
“The Chinese jet also passed the nose of the P-8 at 90 degrees with its belly toward the P-8 Poseidon, we believe to make a point of showing its weapons load-out.”

Cook said from his understanding the Sept. 15 intercept “was not similar” to the 2014 P-8A incident.

Chinese J-11 fighter jet is seen flying near a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon about 215 km (135 miles) east of China's Hainan Island. DoD Photo

Chinese J-11 fighter jet is seen flying near a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon about 215 km (135 miles) east of China’s Hainan Island. DoD Photo

Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) issued a Tuesday afternoon statement condemning the Chinese action as messaging ahead of the planned visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the U.S.

“Yet another dangerous Chinese intercept of a U.S. aircraft last week shows that China feels emboldened to continue its pattern of aggressive behavior in the Asia-Pacific region,” read the statement.
“That this flight came amid negotiations of rules for air-to-air encounters and just one week ahead of President Xi’s arrival in the United States raises further questions about China’s intentions and the Obama Administration’s response thus far.”

While Chinese intercepts of U.S. aircraft over the South China and East China seas are not uncommon, incidents like the one on Sept. 15 are rare.

The following is a partial transcript of Peter Cook’s comments in a Sept. 22, 2015 press briefing on the Sept. 15 RC-135 intercept.

The Department is reviewing a report that came in from PACOM regarding a Sept. 15 intercept of an RC-135 by an aircraft from the People’s Republic of China. The incident in question happened in the Yellow Sea approximately 80 miles east of of the Shandong peninsula. One of the maneuvers conducted by the Chinese aircraft during the incident was perceived as unsafe by the RC-135 aircrew and at this point, right now, there’s no indication this was a near collision but the report that came back was that the plane operated in an unsafe fashion.
There’s been no further determination at this time — it’s still under review.

  • phadrasjohnston

    The Chinese love toying with the boy king. He will do nothing and they know it.

    • Secundius

      @ phadrasjohnston.

      And just exactly, how does THIS INCIDENT differ from Flying the “BUZZ” from April to May 1949 during the Berlin Airlift…

      • Tom Lemon

        it doesn’t. but these pinheads do not understand what you are referring to or understand the antics we dealt with during the cold war. They just need an excuse to blame Obama about something they will never understand.

        • Michael Nunez

          It’s called Weakness …….. .

          • Secundius

            @ Michael Nunez.

            Every Air Force in WW2, routinely RAMMED plane’s of Opposite Air Forces. The Cold War was NO EXCEPTION, to the RULE. Learn YOUR HISTORY before Spouting Your STUPIDITY…

          • Michael Nunez

            Your Comprehension need’s a lot of work , without it you simply can not relate to conversation/debating/Forum’s . That’s why you post distorted replies without Comprehension .

          • Secundius

            @ Michael Nunez.

            Unrelated, but in 1983 an Israeli F-15D collided with an Israeli A-4N. Lost his Starboard Wing and was STILL able to Land His Crippled F-15D Safely. Accident’s Occur Sir, Weather Playing “Chicken” with the Opposition or in Training. A Lapse’s of Judgement can Occur and in History HAVE Occurred. But, Non-Accidental Ramming Also Occur’s from Time-To-Time. That’s how Incident’s usually start, Blame the Other Side. Both the Chinese and the Russian’s are Playing for Keep’s…

    • Tom Lemon

      and what do you want to do? attack the communist country? try to stop buying communist red chinese made anything.

  • Tony

    Obama is a pathetic joke. He refused to allow the Navy to sail within international waters near the newly-created Chinese “islands”; we don’t want to upset them, you see. It’s all a piece with Obama’s grand view: United States, bad; all others, good.

    • Michael Nunez

      Good Post , Straight Truth……… . He was not raised by American’s or with American Value’s . If there is an Anti-Christ , then Obama has to be the Anti- American or Both …. . Time will Tell , 13 to 14 month’s to go .

      • Tom Lemon

        you are both so full of BS. I bet neither one of you ever served in the military, especially the pentagon does not tell you everything that happens with Navy vessels. But you just go on hating. but when the shooting starts, We all KNOW you both will be the first boots on the ground, right?

        • Michael Nunez

          So you may have scrubbed a couple of Latrines , wearing fatigues and being dim witted so you spout out . Well it’s true , , go pee your pants somewhere else

          • Tom Lemon

            Latrine? what did you scrub? I noticed you refused to address the actual comment, which makes any other comment by you worthless.

          • Michael Nunez

            Tom , The Only thing I scrubbed , were Twin Barrel’s of a Canon . As far as Fly-buy’s , Our F-4 Phantom’s had the ruskie’s 6 locked up before they were in range . Now , as for Hating, what are you talking about…? Your Replies are drifting at best . Don’t fret if were on the same side…. .

        • Michael Nunez

          P.S. SAC. Command , Golden Dome , Tail Gunner B-52, 20 millimeter Cannon. 70’s

          • muzzleloader

            Awesome. One of my now deceased uncles was a ball turret gunner on B-24’s in the Mighty Eighth during WW2.

          • Michael Nunez

            My Hat is off to your Uncle , at least I had a little more room . A lonely job…. .

          • Secundius

            @ muzzleloader.

            My father’s youngest Brother flew the “Eight Ball” in ’44, I don’t know weather it was in a 17 or a 24 though. He survived the War, didn’t get “Pancaked” like some of his Buddies did…

          • muzzleloader

            My uncle was shot down twice. The first time, the French underground smuggled him out of France and he made it back to England. The second time, German troops were waiting for him, and he spent the remainder of the war in a POW camp. He had two confirmed kills before his war ended. He came home and raised a family, passed away in1997. He and his brothers in arms such as your Uncle, heroes all….

          • Tom Lemon

            awesome. but no tail gunner for me. nope. however, how many times did your B-52 get a fly-by by the soviets? again, the comment regarded the pentagon NOT telling the whole story. If you were a crew member of a SAC bomber, you know this to be fact.

    • Secundius

      @ Tony.

      EVERY President from FDR to Obama (including Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II) were “Pathetic Joke’s”, SIR. You HONESTLY THINK that Plane Ramming didn’t Occur on Their Watches. Reagan, had an Embassy and a Marine Corps Barrack BLOWN UP and what did he do. NOTHING…

  • publius_maximus_III

    Yankee Dogs, we laugh and nudge each other about your pathetic monarch.

  • muzzleloader

    With the mom jean wearing metro sexual fem boy in the oval office, the Chicoms, along with Putin know they have little to fear. God help us.

    • Tom Lemon

      and what branch of the service are you now serving in, hero boy?

      • muzzleloader

        Since you asked, I am a Navy veteran and a current career DOD employee. From your LSO icon, I assume you are, or have been in the Naval service. While I thank you for your service, judging from your responses to every post I see, here, you come across as a condescending braggart. I am entitled to an opinion, and I see this current CiC as a disaster, and I say that without apologies.

        • Michael Nunez

          Straight Truth .

        • Tom Lemon

          your opinion is not regarded as fact or truth, so what is your point? Being a security guard at some gate for the DoD is not impressing anyone. All I asked is what branch of the service you served in. and yet your panties got twisted. FACT: recon aircraft often go out to test response from the other guy. all military branches from most countries do this. People, including you, act as if this is something new and somehow Obama is weak or bad. I spent 32 years in the Navy, saw this on a daily basis during the cold war and in the persian gulf. Man up, security guard, deal with the facts.

  • KC135TopBoom

    “One of the maneuvers conducted by the Chinese aircraft during the incident was perceived as unsafe by the RC-135 aircrew and at this point, right now, there’s no indication this was a near collision but the report that came back was that the plane operated in an unsafe fashion.”

    The PLAAF JH-7A maneuvered just 500′ in front of the RC-135. The RC-135, most likely at a cruise airspeed of 450 KTAS covers 500′ in a nanosecond. The FAA in the US defines a near collision as less than 3 miles separation horizontally and less than 1000′ vertically. This is a near collision.

    The USAF or USN do not fly MARSA with the PLAAF or PLANAF.

    The ChiComs have a long history of unsafe intercepts, including a collision between a USN EP-3E and a PLANAF J-8IIM fighter, resulting in major damage to the EP-3 and the loss of the J-8 and its pilot (Hainan Island incident) in April 2001.

    So, Obama has decided the flight crew of a USAF RC-135, perhaps the single most important intel asset in the entire US Government lied? The USAF does not pick just any cowboy to fly the RC-135, nor does the USN pick any cowboy to fly the P-8 or EP-3.

    • Tom Lemon

      how it is perceived in public and privately [in military circles] are two different things. You do not know nor will you ever know the real response or what the air crew orders were. Ever hear of… testing opposition’s responses to ceetain circumstances?
      none of you are smart enough to even know what was really going on out there and the press will never know.

      • muzzleloader

        None of you is smart enough? Do you have to insult people with every post?

        • Tom Lemon

          how is that an insult? go cry to mommy. but the fact you cannot address the comment I stated means something. again, YOU are not smart enough to understand that.

          • muzzleloader

            What I have come to understand is that you are an arrogant no class jackass who probably has a big inferiority complex, and the sum of your military know comes from repeated viewings of Top Gun. Go back to playing call of duty while your Mom makes your dinner.

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  • cjakobsson

    This would be a good time for our government and our allies to call for an international investigation of the safety practices of Chinese military aviation. Since the safety of Chinese pilots is being jeopardized, the Chinese pilots would be entirely justified in refusing to fly any more until the international investigation is complete. Because we and our allies have diplomatic representation in Beijing, we should be able to hire any temporary employees that might be needed in order to protect the right of the Chinese pilots to take this action.
    In the conduct of foreign policy, the role of the temps can often be the difference between success and failure. It is important to remember that our national economy – while not as strong as we would like it to be – is much stronger than that of China. That puts us in good position to hire temporary employees to help us handle our relationship with China. Some of the temps might even decide to go to work for us permanently.

    • Tom Lemon

      refuse to fly? are you kidding me? pilots live for this kind of fun.

      • cjakobsson

        It is this kind of situation where the temporary employees can be very helpful. Never underestimate the importance of temporary employees in the conduct of international relations.

  • KazuakiShimazaki

    I love how the US confounds “safe” and “professional”. A safe intercept is an ineffective intercept.

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  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    American military Recee Aircraft has been harassed, shot at and even shotdown by Russian, Chinese. Don’t you guys remember the Hainan Island incident? It happen about 3 months after GW was sworn in. EP3 collision with a chinese fighter plane flown by an experience pilot. Who rammed out EP3, almost causing the death of 24 Americans.

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