‘Risky’ Chinese fighter jets ‘flash their weapons’ just 20ft from US pilots
Chinese fighter pilots were spotted flashing their weapons in a stunt deemed "risky" considering how close they were to US pilots at the time.
The Pentagon has since declassified footage and images of the Chinese pilots' "coercive and risky" behaviour against the US aircrafts in international airspace. The footage showed off the Chinese fighter jets intimidating the other planes from just 20ft away.
A total of 180 instances since 2021 of the chilling behaviour has been reported, with the number of aerial skirmishes documented also on the rise. It is perceived by the United States as a challenge to their presence in international airspace, officials now claim.
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US officials have since dubbed the tactic part of a "centralized and concerted campaign" to challenge their presence in the Indo-Pacific region, the Express reported. Flares were launched just 900 feet away from a US aircraft in one nail-biting incident.
The terrifying incident saw a vehicle shoot out the flares over the East China Sea on July 12, which was preceded by a worrying development on July 7 where a Chinese vehicle flew just 20 feet away from a US fighter jet above the South China Sea.
Details of the close encounters were released by the Pentagon, with one incident on June 22 seeing a Chinese jet "flashing its weapons" at a US pilot. The Chinese craft then allegedly swore at the US pilot over the radio.
The incident was detailed in new documents which say the Chinese plane was "approaching a distance of just 40 feet before repeatedly flying above and below the US aircraft and flashing its weapons. After the US operator radioed the PLA fighter jet, the PLA pilot responded using explicit language, including an expletive."
These reported incidents were deemed "coercive and risky", and are now classified as "unsafe and unprofessional". Head of US Indo-Pacific Command Adm. John Aquilino deemed the incidents "unsafe and unprofessional".
He said: "People's lives are at risk. One accident is too many. We went through it in 2001." The crash in 2001 referenced by Admiral Aquilino was a tragic crash which saw a Chinese pilot killed after crashing into a US Navy spy plane.
He added: "That's nearly 200 cases where PLA operators have performed reckless manoeuvres or discharged chaff or shot off flares or approached too rapidly or too close to U.S. aircraft — all as part of trying to interfere with the ability of U.S. forces to operate safely."
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