Chinese fighter pilot harasses U.S. B-52 over South China Sea, Pentagon says

A Chinese fighter jet conducted an “unsafe intercept” of a U.S. Air Force B-52 over the South China Sea earlier this week, the Pentagon said Thursday. Video of the Tuesday night confrontation was released by the Defense Department.

According to the Pentagon, the 38-second video shows the pilot of a Shenyang J-11 coming within 10 feet of the B-52, which is a long-range heavy bomber.

The Pentagon said the Chinese pilot “flew in an unsafe and unprofessional manner” and “demonstrated poor airmanship by closing with uncontrolled excessive speed.”

The Pentagon said it was “concerned” that China’s fighter pilot “was unaware of how close he came to causing a collision.”

Chinese fighter pilot harasses U.S. B-52 over South China Sea, Pentagon says
Video of a Chinese J-11 fighter jet coming near a U.S. Air Force B-52 over the South China Sea. Oct. 24, 2023. 

U.S. Defense Department

The B-52 was conducting routine nighttime operations when the confrontation occurred, and had limited visibility, the Pentagon stated. Furthermore, the Chinese fighter jet’s intercept “violated international air safety rules and norms.”

Since the fall of 2021, China’s military has initiated more than 180 similar interactions with aircraft of the U.S. military and other nations, according to the Pentagon.

In one such incident on May 26, also over the South China Sea, the pilot of a Chinese J-16 fighter flew directly in front of the nose of an RC-135, a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft. The two aircraft came within 400 feet of each other, and the RC-135 was forced to fly through the J-16’s wake turbulence, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command reported. 

“There have been a series of these actions directed not just at us but at other countries in recent months,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the time.

There have also been confrontations at sea. In June, a Chinese navy ship cut across the path of an U.S. Navy missile destroyer in the Taiwan Strait, with the two ships coming within 150 yards.

China often conducts drills in the Taiwan Strait. It considers Taiwan, an island just off its east coast that’s been democratically governed for seven decades, part of its sovereign territory.

— Eleanor Watson and Elizabeth Palmer contributed to this report. 

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