Chinese Fighter Drops Flares in Front of Aussie Helo in ‘Unprofessional’ Action, Say Officials

May 6, 2024 4:56 PM
Royal Australian Air Force MH-60R. RAAF Photo

A People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) fighter jet dropped flares in front of a Royal Australian Navy MH-60R over the Yellow Sea on Saturday, an action that the Australian government called “unsafe and unprofessional” according to a Monday release.
The Australian Department of Defence release stated that destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG39) was in international waters in the Yellow Sea undertaking routine activities as part of Operation Argos – Australia’s contribution to the international effort to enforce United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea – when on Saturday, an MH-60R helicopter launched by Hobart was intercepted by a PLAAF fighter aircraft. The aircraft released flares across the flight path of the ADF helicopter.

According to the release, while no injuries were sustained by personnel onboard and no damage was caused to the helicopter, the safety and wellbeing of ADF personnel continues to be an utmost priority for Australia. Australia expects all countries, including China, to operate their militaries in a professional and safe manner, stated the release.

“Defense has, for decades, undertaken maritime surveillance activities in the region and does so in accordance with international law, exercising the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace,” concluded the release.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles told Australian news channel 9 News that the PLAAF plane dropped flares about 300 meters in front of the MH-60R helicopter, while it was at a height of 60 meters higher than the MH-60R, requiring the helicopter to take evasive action to not be hit by the flares.

The defense leader said the Australian government had formally expressed concern to the Chinese government and Hobart will continue its work enforcing UN sanctions.

Since 2018, a number of countries have had ships and aircraft conducting patrols, monitoring and carrying out surveillance of North Korea violations of UN sanctions via ship to ship transfer of goods. In recent years, Canadian aircraft and Australian warships have faced harassment by the Chinese military, who claim that such missions are covers for reconnaissance and monitoring missions on China. In October 2023, a Chinese fighter jet dropped flares in front of a Royal Canadian Navy helicopter. The Pentagon last year released data on unsafe intercepts by the Chinese military in the western Pacific.

Last November, People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) destroyer CNS Ningbo (139) used its sonar in the vicinity of RAN frigate HMAS Toowoomba (FFH156), while the Australian ship had divers in the waters of the East China Sea. The divers sustained minor injuries as a result of the PLAN ship’s action. Toowoomba was also conducting an Operation Argos patrol that time. The Chinese military denied carrying out such an action and accused Australia of making “reckless accusations.”

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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