The Australian Defence Force has reported that a Royal Australian Air Force Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft was intercepted by a Chinese PLA fighter aircraft over the South China Sea on 26 May.
In a brief statement issued on 5 June, Defence stated that, “on 26 May 2022, a RAAF P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft was intercepted by a Chinese J-16 fighter aircraft during a routine maritime surveillance activity in international airspace in the South China Sea region.
“The intercept resulted in a dangerous manoeuvre which posed a safety threat to the P-8 aircraft and its crew. The Australian Government has raised its concerns about the incident with the Chinese Government,” the statement added. “Defence has for decades undertaken maritime surveillance activities in the region and does so in accordance with international law, exercising the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace.”
In a media statement later that morning, new Defence Minister Richard Marles described the actions of the J-16 as “very dangerous”. “What occurred was that the J-16 aircraft flew very close to the side of the P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft,” Marles told media at a doorstop in Geelong.
“In flying close to the side, it released flares. The J-16 then accelerated and cut across the nose of the P-8, settling in front of the P-8 at very close distance,” he added. “At that moment, it then released a bundle of chaff which contained small pieces of aluminium, some of which were ingested into the engine of the P-8 aircraft.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters in Perth that, “In the Australian government’s view, in the Defence Department’s view, this was not safe…and we’ve made appropriate representations to the Chinese government expressing our concern at this.”
The Shenyang J-16 is an evolved version of the Sukhoi Su-27 multi-tole fighter. China purchased some Su-27 Flankers from Russia in the 1990s and licence produced the type as the J-11. The J-16 evolved from the two-seat J-11BS and is roughly analogous to the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet, and is fitted with an AESA radar and indigenous WS-10 engines.