- A Chinese jet cut in front of an Australian plane and fired debris that entered its engine, officials said.
- Australia’s defense ministry said the incident happened on May 26 over international waters.
- Chinese aircraft regularly “buzz” or try to interfere with foreign aircraft near their airspace.
A Chinese fighter jet veered in front of an Australian military plane and fired off a cloud of debris that entered its engine, Australia’s defense ministry said.
The incident happened on May 26 and took place in international airspace over the South China Sea, the ministry said Sunday. The South China Sea is an area where China has tried to assert dominance to gain a strategic advantage in recent years.
Richard Marless, Australia’s defense minister, told told 9News that a Chinese J-16 fighter jet cut across an Australian Air Force P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft and released “chaff,” which are small pieces of metal debris used to confuse missiles.
“The J-16 … accelerated and cut across the nose of the P-8, settling in front of the P-8 at a very close distance,” Marless said.
“At that moment it then released a bundle of chaff, which contains small pieces of aluminum, some of which were ingested into the engine of the P-8 aircraft. Quite obviously, this is very dangerous.”
Peter Layton, a former Australian Air Force officer, told CNN that the incident would have forced the P-8 to return to base, though the defense ministry did not give details as to the state of the aircraft.
Chinese aircraft regularly fly close to or try and interfere with foreign aircraft that fly over the South China Sea.
China’s relations with Australia have soured over trade and accusations of election interference.
In a Sunday article, Chinese state-media outlet the Global Times called the Australian aircraft “provocative” and rubbished claims that Chinese military planes had recently “buzzed” Canadian surveillance aircraft.
Australia’s defense ministry said in its statement: “The intercept resulted in a dangerous maneuver which posed a safety threat to the P-8 aircraft and its crew.”
“Defense has for decades undertaken maritime surveillance activities in the region and does so in accordance with international law, exercising the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace,” it said.
In February, Australia claimed a Chinese military vessel pointed a laser at another P-8 patrol aircraft to try and distract the pilot, calling it “reckless.”