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South China Sea tensions explode as China fires at submarine-hunting helicopter
November 3, 2023
Unprofessional Intercept of U.S. B-52 over South China Sea
A Chinese jet risked international backlash after it fired flares close to a submarine-hunting helicopter from Canada in the South China Sea, the North American country’s navy has confirmed.
Canada accused its counterparts in Beijing of acting recklessly, fearing one of its helicopters could have been downed in international waters, after the encounter on Sunday.
The Sikorsky Cyclone helicopter was flying off the Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Ottawa, Maj. Rob Millen – an officer aboard the ship – said.
He added: “The risk to a helicopter in that instance is the flares moving into the rotor blades or the engines so this was categorized as both unsafe and non-standard, unprofessional.”
The encounter was the second similar incident on October 29, as a similar incident saw the helicopter and a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy J-11 fighter jets get around 100 feet of each other over international waters.
The first showdown, Millen told CNN, occurred 34 miles out from the Parcel Islands chain, in the north of the contentious South China Sea, while the second was 23 miles away from the disputed region.
Canada said while it was not uncommon for Chinese aircraft to get close to fixed-wing aircraft, it was rare for such an action to be made against a helicopter.
According to the authorities, the targeted Canadian helicopter had been searching for a submarine it had detected.
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Hours before the Chinese standoff, Millen described how he had been piloting the aircraft when Chinese J-11s intercepted it at close range.
The rival vessel flew in circles of Millen’s helicopter, the military man said, but as it drew “closer and closer, at a certain point it became unsafe”.
It experienced turbulence emitting from the Chinese jets which also sparked fears for the safety of the helicopter.
He added: “I certainly am not as comfortable as you can be based on the fragility of the rotor system.”
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The incidents from Sunday came days before the US had its own issues with Beijing in the South China Sea.
Washington reported that a PLA fighter jet came within 10 feet of a US Air Force B-52 bomber flying over the region. This was within weeks of a Chinese fighter jet getting within 16 feet of a Canadian CP-140 reconnaissance and surveillance plane over the East China Sea.
Maj. Gen. Iain Huddleston, the commander of Canada’s 1st Air Division, was on the Canadian craft when it was targeted by the “unprofessional” and “very aggressive” Chinese.
In a statement, Canada’s Defense Ministery said: “The Canadian aircraft was subject to multiple close-proximity maneuvers by a PLAAF aircraft that put the safety of all personnel at risk.”