The Pentagon confirms that a Chinese fighter jet flew too close to an American reconnaissance aircraft last week over the Yellow Sea off the coast of China.
A U.S. official says the Chinese fighter flew about 500 feet from the nose of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 surveillance aircraft, but the Pentagon is still reviewing whether it constituted an “unsafe” maneuver.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters Tuesday that the incident occurred on Sept. 15 in the Yellow Sea, approximately 80 miles east of the Shandong Peninsula.
“One of the maneuvers conducted by the Chinese aircraft during this intercept was perceived as unsafe by the RC-135 air crew,” said Cook who added “there's no indication this was a near collision.”
According to Cook, the pilot of the U.S. aircraft believed “that the plane passed in an unsafe fashion in front of the plane.” He said the incident is still being reviewed by military officials.
A final determination has to be made by the Joint Staff which initially determined the maneuver was not a standard encounter, but could still be considered safe.
There was little doubt over an incident on Aug. 19, 2014 when a Chinese fighter jet executed a risky maneuver known as a "barrel roll” in front of a Navy P-8 surveillance aircraft flying in international airspace 135 miles east of Hainan Island. A Pentagon spokesman said at the time that the Chinese fighter made multiple passes around the P-8 that sometimes brought it as close as 20 feet to the American aircraft.
Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman at the time, described the Chinese pilot's maneuver as "“very, very close, very dangerous”.
The United States filed a diplomatic protest with China over that encounter.