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Chinese aircraft intercepted US B-52 bombers in the East Sea

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On October 24, 2023, a concerning incident took place in the South China Sea involving a People’s Republic of China J-11 pilot and a U.S. Air Force B-52 aircraft.

The B-52 was lawfully conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was subjected to an unsafe intercept by the PRC pilot. The intercept occurred during the night with limited visibility, leading to a dangerous situation.

The PRC pilot exhibited unprofessional airmanship by flying in an unsafe manner. This included flying at an uncontrolled excessive speed, flying below, in front of, and within 10 feet of the B-52, putting both aircraft at risk of colliding.

It is concerning to think that the pilot may not have been fully aware of the proximity to causing a collision.

This incident is not an isolated event but instead represents a larger pattern of unsafe and unprofessional behavior by the People’s Liberation Army as described in the 2023 China Military Power Report by the Department of Defense.

The report highlights over 180 similar interactions since the fall of 2021. The Department further released declassified images and videos on October 17, 2023, showcasing the coercive and risky operational behavior by the People’s Liberation Army against U.S. aircraft operating lawfully in international airspace in the East and South China Sea regions.

It is essential for military aircraft, when intentionally approaching another, to adhere to international air safety rules and norms, operating with professional airmanship and considering the safety of other aircraft.

The U.S is committed to flying, sailing, and operating safely and responsibly wherever international laws allow. The U.S Indo-Pacific Command Joint Force remains dedicated to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region. It is expected that all countries in the Indo-Pacific region operate in international airspace safely and in compliance with international law.

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