China and Russia attempt intimidation of U.S. through close flying aircraft

Chinese Sukhoi Su-27 Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

In an attempt to project power beyond their borders, Chinese and Russian planes have become more active in international waters and airspace, with an increasing number of close calls with U.S. aircraft.

According to The Washington Post, there has been a recent flurry of midair encounters between American military aircraft and Chinese and Russian planes in the Pacific.  It is believed to be the result of increasingly assertive strategies by the U.S. adversaries.

Air Force General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, head of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, stated China’s naval and air forces are “very much continuing to push” and becoming more active.

“They still talk about the century of humiliation in the last century. They still talk about this as the rise of China,” Carlisle said. “They still talk about this as their great nation. And they want to continue to demonstrate that.”

Since commissioning its first aircraft carrier two years ago, China’s naval forces have piloted more exercises, further away from its shores.  It has also been monitoring areas in disputed waters where Chinese companies are drilling for oil.

Because of these actions, the U.S. military has deployed it ships and reconnaissance aircraft to keep a close eye on their movements. Carlisle said that China’s military usually responds by conducting intercepts of U.S. aircraft as the two sides jockey for position.

The Washington Post reported U.S. officials said one such encounter got out of hand last August.  A Chinese J-11 fighter jet sped past a Navy Poseidon P-8 patrol aircraft, bringing its wingtip within 20 feet of the U.S. plane.  The aircraft were in international airspace approximately 135 miles east of China’s Hainan Island.

The Pentagon was not surprised by the increase in Chinese military activity in the Pacific, expecting it to eventually happen.  However, it has also had to deal with Russia, who has been conducting more long-range reconnaissance and bomber missions in the region and near U.S. territory.

Last month, U.S. fighter jets intercepted six Russian military planes as they neared the coast of Alaska.  In addition, U.S. officials have seen an increase in Russian aircraft, including bombers and jets, near Guam, the U.S. territory in the Pacific.

Carlisle said the Russian flights are part of a strategy by President Vladi­mir Putin “to reassert Russia into what he thinks its rightful place in the international order is, and part of that is continuing to push into the Pacific.”

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