Two Chinese fighters unsafely intercepted a U.S. Navy P-3C Orion anti-submarine warfare aircraft over the South China Sea this week, a U.S. defense official told USNI News on Friday.
The P-3C was flying about 150 miles southeast of Hainan Island on patrol when it was engaged by two Chengdu J-10 fighters on May 24 at about 7:30 A.M. local time.
While one fighter took up position about 800 yards off the Orion’s right wing, the other maneuvered about 200 yards in front of the P-3 and began making slow turns in front of the U.S. aircraft. The crew of the P-3 determined the behavior of the Chinese aircraft during the 20-minute encounter was “unsafe,” the official told USNI News.
Chinese fighters have been known to intercept U.S. aircraft operating near Hainan, a major center of the People’s Liberation Army Navy submarine operations.
In May of 2016, the U.S. complained of an unsafe intercept of an U.S. EP-3E Aries II by a pair of Shenyang J-11 fighters near Hainan. In 2014, A U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon was intercepted by a J-11 near Hainan island in an encounter where the J-11 cut in front of the Poseidon to show off its weapons loadout.
In 2001, an attempted intercept of an E-P3 Aries by a People’s Liberation Army Navy Shenyang J-8 Finback in the region resulted in the death of the Finback pilot and the Aries making an emergency landing on Hainan Island.