January 12, 2017

Chinese Jet Intercepts an Australian Patrol Aircraft

Japan's Sankei News reports that a Chinese Shenyang J-11 air superiority fighter (above) on September 26, 2016 intercepted an Australian AP-3C Orion (below) while the Orion patrolled the South China Sea. (Orion photo courtesy Photo © Keith Anderson).


On January 11, 2017 it was revealed that the Chinese military had interfered more than once with the activities by Australian aircraft patrolling South China Sea [Pete Comment – Australian AP-3C Orions are known to patrol there regularly]. The report of the interference arose from a meeting between Japanese, Australia and US officials in mid December 2016. Australian officials explained the situation, and stressed the need to strengthen defence cooperation among the three countries and the necessity of collaboration with ASEAN including Thailand and the Philippines. This report comes from Japan’s Sankei News at http://www.sankei.com/politics/news/170112/plt1701120006-n1.html in Japanese.

Sankei News reports:

The Australian side explained at the mid December 2016 meeting between Japanese, US and Australian officials that the Australian patrol aircraft operating in the area around the South China Sea are periodically obstructed by Chinese military aircraft. As a concrete example, the case was reported of a top of the line Chinese Shenyang J-11 jet fighter approaching the Australian patrol plane on September 26, 2016.

The September 26, 2016 event is highly significant. Pete has not seen previous reports about it. The release of perhaps confidential details about the event is likely to have come from the Japanese Government to Sankei News . Pete thinks the Japanese Government strategy behind such a release might be to encourage the Australian Government/military to be more active in patrols and Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea against China's claims

The US Government may also have been involved in briefing Sankei News because the US would also want increased Australian patrol/FONOPs activity. US officials were also present at the mid December 2016 mentioned above.

[Pete’s Comment, The Australian patrol aircraft are likely to be AP-3C Orions, of No. 92 Wing Based at Edinburgh RAAF Base in South Australia. To get to South China Sea the AP-3Cs may go via RAAF Darwin or RAAF Tindal in the Northern Territory and then stop at Malaysian Airforce Base Butterworth or Singapore’s Paya Lebar Air Base]

To the Chinese air forces credit the Australian side said that the intercept was "professional” with the Chinese pilot being “highly skilled.”

[Pete’s Comment – a professional intercept usually means that the Chinese pilot would have alerted, in English, on the radio, the Australian patrol aircraft, that it was being intercepted. The Chinese pilot should communicate clearly what he wants done – usually a message that an aircraft move out of airspace that China claims as “Chinese airspace”. The Chinese J-11 would then have moved gradually and predictably towards the patrol aircraft. A key behaviour would be the J-11 pilot must maintain internationally accepted separation distances from the patrol aircraft. This allows both aircraft to fly straight and level in a predictable manner. This would avoid the usual main danger, which is a collision].

On Chinese opposition to Australian Orion aircraft patrols over the South China Sea in November 2015 see Submarine Matters article of December 16, 2015.



Ztev Konrad said...

meanwhile Australia seizes a Chinese registered ship that is far away from its territorial waters, while it seems to be drug related the legal niceties would be interesting
"the boat was intercepted about 1300 kilometres off the coast of Tasmania on December 12."

Peter Coates said...

Hi Ztev

International action against organised crime is different to free passage under international law through international airspace. And at least Australia doesn't execute drug smugglers, like in China, Indonesia etc.

The issue you have brought up looks like Australia acted correctly and perhaps after a tipoff/information from Chinese authorities.

"Source: AAP 21 DEC 2016:

"Ten Chinese men face possible life imprisonment in Australia after being charged with trying to smuggle 186kg of cocaine with an estimated value of more than $60 million. The group, aged between 23 and 50, were arrested after their 50-metre vessel was escorted into Hobart on Friday following a lengthy investigation at sea involving the military and border force.

...The boat was first detected in international waters off Western Australia and was tracked south where suspicions were raised further as it started circling..."

Cheers to honest police/border force work.