Bijan Razzaghi    

On the 24th of July 2017 a US Navy EP-3 was approached by a pair of two Chinese J-10 fighter jets over the South China Sea. The EP-3 was conducting a routine freedom of navigation operation over international waters. China recognizes part of the South China Sea as its own territory. Reports indicate that the J-10s nearly collided with the EP-3. The EP-3 took evasive action after an alarm went off in the cockpit. The incident has a close resemblance to the 2001 Hannian incident when a Chinese J-8 Finback collided with an EP-3 Orion forcing it to land. This incident is the most recent in a series of close encounters between US Navy aircraft and surface vessels with Chinese forces. The incident also comes days before a major joint Russian, Chinese naval drill is to begin in the Baltic Sea.

 

This encounter is unique because it is the first such encounter involving the J-10 which is comparable to the American F-16. China usually operates J-11Bs and SU-30s in the South China Sea, which have longer ranges and payloads. The deployment of the jet can be signal of an increased presence of different types of PLAAF fighters in the South China Sea theater China has used man made Islands in the South China Sea as forward operating airbases allowing shorter range aircraft like the J-10 to operate more easily. China can also deploy attack aircraft such as the Q-5 and JH-7 from these Islands.

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