Seoul, South Korea:
The Chinese J-16 fighter jet ‘chaffed’ Australian P-8 plane near the South China Sea, while it was on a routine surveillance mission in international airspace last month before releasing flares and chaff that entered at least one of the Australian aircraft’s engines, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said.
Military planes usually release chaff — typically tiny strips of aluminum or zinc — as a deliberate countermeasure to confuse missiles, but can also use it to sabotage pursuing aircraft.
In a statement, Australia’s Defense Ministry described the encounter as “a dangerous manoeuvre which posed a safety threat to the P-8 aircraft and its crew.”
“The J-16 aircraft flew very close to the side of the P-8 … in flying close to the side, it released flares,” Marles told Australia’s 9News in a televised interview.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government had raised the issue with Beijing, reported CNN.
“This was not safe, what occurred, and we’ve made appropriate representations to the Chinese government expressing our concern,” Albanese said.
This is the second time in a week that Chinese aircraft have been accused of endangering the reconnaissance flights of other militaries, reported CNN.
On Wednesday, Canada said Chinese warplanes buzzed its reconnaissance aircraft enforcing United Nations sanctions on North Korea.
In some instances the Chinese warplanes came so close the Canadian aircraft had to change course to avoid a collision, the Canadian Armed Forces said.
“In these interactions, PLAAF aircraft did not adhere to international air safety norms,” said Dan Le Bouthillier, media relations chief of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Tensions between China and Australia have been simmering much of this year.
In February, Australia alleged that a Chinese warship used a laser to “illuminate” an Australian P-8 in waters off the country’s north coast.
Directing a laser at an aircraft can damage the pilots’ sight and put the aircraft in jeopardy, according to the US Federal Aviation Administration.
The Australian government called that act “dangerous” and “reckless.”
But Beijing said the Australian allegations were untrue and that its warship was acting in accordance with international law. It accused Australia of “maliciously spreading false information about China.”
China and Australia have also been at odds over Beijing’s effort to pursue new security agreements with a range of Pacific island nations that have been close partners of Australia in the past