A United States Navy P-3 Orion was buzzed by Chinese fighters while in international airspace off Hong Kong. This is the second time that an American plane has had a close encounter in the last two weeks.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the Chinese Chengdu J-10 "Firebird" fighters came within 200 yards of the P-3, with at least one of the planes making slow turns in front of the American maritime patrol aircraft. The action was considered "unsafe" by the crew.
A P-3 Orion flies over Japan. (US Navy photo)
"You don't know what the other person is doing," a defense official told FoxNews.com under the condition of anonymity while explaining the characterization of the incident.
Last week, Chinese J-11s pulled a "Top Gun"-style intercept on an Air Force WC-135W Constant Phoenix radiation surveillance plane — an encounter deemed "unprofessional" by American officials. Encounters like this have been frequent in recent months, and in 2001, a Navy EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane collided with a Chinese J-8 "Finback" interceptor. The Chinese pilot was killed.
The day after the incident involving the J-10s and the P-3, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) passed within six miles of Mischief Reef, one of the artificial islands China has built in the South China Sea. The United States has been asserting freedom of navigation in the disputed waters, even in the face of Chinese threats to impose fines on American ships that don't comply with their edicts in the maritime flashpoint.
Chengdu J-10 taking off. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Military-Today.com reports that the J-10 is a single-engine fighter that was developed during the late 1980s and early 1990s to counter Russian fighters like the Su-27 Flanker and the MiG-29 Fulcrum. According to some reports, the design was based on the Israeli Aircraft Industries prototype multi-role fighter known as the Lavi, an effort by the Israelis to develop an aircraft comparable to the F-16.
The J-10 has a top speed of Mach 2.2, and can carry PL-12 and PL-8 air-to-air missiles, while also having the ability to drop bombs and fire unguided rockets. GlobalSecurity.org reports that the Chinese have at least 240 on inventory with the People's Liberation Army Air Force. Pakistan also signed a deal to buy 36 of the J-10B multi-role fighter in 2009, according to FlightGlobal.com.