A Navy surveillance plane dodged a Chinese jet with “evasive action” Sunday after the Chinese plane flew beneath it at a high rate of speed and then pulled in front of it, U.S. defense officials said.
The incident occurred late Sunday morning local time in airspace along the edge of the East China Sea and Yellow Sea west of the Korean Peninsula. It involved a Navy EP-3 aircraft and two Chinese J-10s, multi-role fighter jets that are sometimes compared to Air Force F-15s. The actions of one of the J-10s prompted the reaction by the EP-3 after an alarm system went off, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.
“It was forced to take evasive action to prevent the possibility of collision,” Davis said of the Navy plane.
The interaction marks at least the third time in recent months that a Chinese jet has buzzed a U.S. surveillance plane over the East China Sea. In May, Chinese Su-30 fighters twice buzzed an Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix, has conducted missions off the Korean Peninsula to collect air samples and detect for traces of nuclear explosions.
Davis underscored Monday that most interactions between American and Chinese aircraft remain professional, calling the latest incident “the exception, not the norm.” But China has repeatedly expressed displeasure with U.S. surveillance in the region and with Washington’s efforts to stop North Korea from building an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon.
The EP-3 is a land-based aircraft that collects electronic transmissions for American intelligence. In 2001, an EP-3 was involved in an aerial collision with a J-8IIM fighter, causing an international incident in which the Chinese jet crashed and the EP-3 was forced to make an emergency landing on a Chinese island in the South China Sea. The American crew and plane were detained by Chinese authorities but released several days later.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Dan Lamothe