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U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Public Affairs
On Oct. 24, 2023, a People’s Republic of China J-11 pilot executed an unsafe intercept of a U.S. Air Force B-52 aircraft, which was lawfully conducting routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace. During the night time intercept, the PRC pilot flew in an unsafe and unprofessional manner, demonstrated poor airmanship by closing with uncontrolled excessive speed, flying below, in front of, and within 10 feet of the B-52, putting both aircraft in danger of collision. We are concerned this pilot was unaware of how close he came to causing a collision.
The PRC intercept was conducted at night, with limited visibility, in a manner contrary to international air safety rules and norms. Military aircraft, when intentionally approaching another, shall operate with professional airmanship and give due regard for the safety of other aircraft.
This incident represents the latest example of what the Department of Defense described in the 2023 China Military Power Report (CMPR) as "unsafe, unprofessional, and other behaviors that seek to impinge upon the ability of the United States and other nations to safely conduct operations where international law allows," including more than 180 such interactions since the fall of 2021. On October 17, 2023, the Department released a collection of declassified images and videos depicting a dangerous pattern of coercive and risky operational behavior by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) against U.S. aircraft operating lawfully in international airspace in the East and South China Sea regions. https://www.defense.gov/News/Releases/Release/Article/3559903/department-of-defense-releases-declassified-images-videos-of-coercive-and-risky/
The U.S will continue to fly, sail, and operate – safely and responsibly – wherever international laws allow. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Joint Force remains dedicated to a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and we expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific to operate in international airspace safely and in accordance with international law.
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