Chinese Jet Intercepts US Air Force Plane, ‘Improper Airmanship’ to Blame

June 8, 2016 Updated: June 8, 2016

A Chinese jet intercepted a U.S. Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft that was flying in international airspace over the East China Sea.

The United States Pacific Command issued a statement about the incident.

“This seems to be a case of improper airmanship, as no other provocative or unsafe maneuvers occurred,” the Pacific Command said Tuesday. “One of the intercepting Chinese jets had an unsafe excessive rate of closure on the RC-135 aircraft,” the statement added.

Two People’s Liberation Army Air Force Chengdu J-10 Firebird fighters intercepted the Air Force jet, U.S. officials said.

RC-135 (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)
RC-135 (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

The airspace incident is the second recent report of an unsafe intercept recently by a Chinese jet that was tracking a U.S. reconnaissance plane in areas around China.

The Pentagon in May said two Chinese fighter planes flew too close to an EP-3 aircraft near the coast of Hainan in southern China. A Chinese military plane flew within 50 feet of the U.S. jet over the South China Sea, which broke an agreement that Beijing and Washington signed last year, the Pentagon added.

In September, two Xian JH-7 fighters intercepted a U.S. Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint, with one fighter coming within 500 feet of the surveillance aircraft. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said at the time that there was “no indication this was a near collision but the report that came back was that the plane operated in an unsafe fashion,” USNI reported.

China and Japan have disputed areas over the sensitive East China Sea. The Senkaku islands, a group of uninhabited rocks, are at the center of a bitter dispute between the two nations.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told CNN Wednesday that U.S. Air Force flights in nearby airspace “seriously harms China’s maritime security,” issuing a demand that American forces stop flying nearby.