The intercept news just keeps coming. This time the encounter happened about 135 miles east of Hainan Island, and involved the Navy's new P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol aircraft and a pair of Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force Su-27 Flankers.
The Chinese fighters intercepted the defenseless P-8 and flew formation off its wings at some distance brandishing their weapons via tilting their wings up. The fighters then moved in to distances that were alarming.
Admiral Jack Kirby stated that the Chinese Flankers came within 20-30 feet of the P-8. Considering the wingspan of the Su-27 is 48 feet, that is very close for uncoordinated formation flying. They encroached to this distance at least three times during the intercept.
What happened next was an outright omission of safety as one of the Su-27s executed a barrel roll over P-8, followed by a 90 degree break across the modified Boeing's 737's nose. Similar aggressive flying by PLAAF pilots resulted in an international incident, the loss of two aircraft, and almost the lives of two dozen Americans.
Accordingly to Admiral Kirby, the intercept was "very, very close, very dangerous."
Such an aggressive intercept occurring well outside of Chinese airspace against a US military aircraft will certainly chill military relations between the two powers. This is far less than ideal considering the US has worked hard to strengthen positive relations between the two countries' militaries, having recently invited China to participate in RIMPAC exercises earlier this summer for the very first time.
The Pentagon has filed a formal protest with the Chinese Embassy.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who edits the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com