Canadian Defense Minister Bill Blair said two dangerous intercepts took place on October 29 involving Chinese fighter jets and a Canadian Cyclone helicopter, including flares deployed in the helicopter’s path.
The interceptions took place near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, “well outside the territorial limits of China or any other country,” Blair said, and while the Canadian helicopter was carrying out routine exercises in the region.
The CH-148 Cyclone helicopter had taken off from HMCS Ottawa, which the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) says is deployed to the region as part of Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
The CAF says the first encounter with the jets was deemed safe, but the two subsequent encounters were not.
During the first encounter, a Chinese J-11 fighter jet flew over the Canadian helicopter. An overflight took place with “little separation” and caused turbulence on the helicopter, the military said.
Canadian military plane was in international airspace during Chinese interception: MDN
Later the same day, the CAF claims the same helicopter was intercepted by another J-11 jet, which launched flares directly into the helicopter’s path. The pilot was forced to maneuver to avoid the flares and prevent any of them from entering the plane’s rotor or air intakes.
The helicopter was not damaged in either incident and the entire crew is safe.
Blair says Canada has had diplomatic communications with China to raise concerns.
“To be very clear, HMCS Ottawa and our helicopter were in international waters,” Blair told reporters before question period.
“One of our responsibilities, working with our allies in the Indo-Pacific Strategy, is to maintain this freedom of navigation on international waterways. We were there to do our job.
Blair added that while interceptions may be common, all parties involved are expected to conduct this type of activity in a safe and professional manner.
The CAF considers interceptions dangerous when actions put an aircraft in danger or require the pilot to perform maneuvers to avoid a collision.
Chinese military plane intercepts Canadian Forces plane ‘aggressively’
This comes after a Chinese plane carried out an “aggressive interception” of another Canadian plane in the area on October 16, while a Global News crew was on board. The Canadian plane was carrying out a mission as part of Operation NEON, helping to enforce sanctions against North Korea.
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At least two different Chinese planes intercepted the Canadian plane consistently for several hours during the more than eight-hour mission. The Chinese planes came within approximately five meters of the Canadian plane.
“This is an escalation of aggression that is truly unexpected and unnecessary in the context of the mission we are carrying out,” Major General Iain Huddleston said at the time.
Exclusive Global News video captures close contact between Chinese warship and US destroyer in Taiwan Strait
Earlier this year, a Chinese warship came within 150 meters of the US destroyer USS Chung-Hoon during a rare joint Canadian-US mission crossing the Taiwan Strait, the latest aggressive military move by Beijing in South China Sea.
Global News was also traveling aboard HMCS Montreal, the Canadian frigate participating in the mission, since May 25 in the South China Sea, and witnessed the near-collision from the ship’s bridge wing.
A People’s Liberation Navy ship gained considerable speed and cut in front of the Chung-Hoon’s bow, a maneuver that HMCS Montreal’s commanding officer, Captain Paul Mountford, called “unprofessional.”
When the Chinese ship changed course, Mountford said the crew called the American ship and told it to move or there would be a collision. The Americans responded by telling the Chinese to stay away from the ship, but the Chung-Hoon eventually had to change course and slow down to avoid a crash.
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