Accidental or By Design? China’s Unsafe Air Intercepts

On 26 May a J‑16 fighter aircraft from the Peoples Liberational Army Air Force conducted an ‘unsafe’ interception of an Australian P‑8A Poseidon routine surveillance flight above international waters. The Chinese fighter pulled alongside releasing flares, then cut in front of the Royal Australian Air Force aircraft and released ‘chaff’—aluminium fragments to decoy incoming missiles. Chaff is familiar to audiences for its frequent appearance in the movie Top Gun: Maverick.
Only hours after the encounter, a second RAAF aircraft returned to patrol the area indicating that Australian forces had not been deterred from continuing their operations. This flight was not contested.
Between 26 April and 26 May, a Royal Canadian Air Force CP-140 Aurora patrol aircraft was similarly dangerously intercepted by Chinese aircraft in violation of air-safety norms, while flying in international airspace near the Korean peninsula as part of UN-sanctioned Operation NEON.
These air intercepts, and previous incidents, including the use of a laser by a Chinese vessel to dazzle the crew of another RAAF P‑8 over the Arafura Sea in February, have been condemned by Australian leaders as aggressive acts. Harassment of foreign aircraft and vessels has become commonplace and appears to be increasing. This strongly suggests that rather than being …

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