Chinese J-16 fighter cuts across the nose of US RC-135 aircraft
Video from the cockpit of a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft is going viral on the web. The video captured an aggressive maneuver by a Chinese fighter jet toward the American aircraft. The incident happened last week while the US RC-135 aircraft was flying over the South China Sea.
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The footage begins with the Chinese Shenyang J-16 fighter jet flying at a safe distance but at the same altitude as the American plane. At this point, everything is safe and secure. At one point, however, the J-16 advanced and began a left-turn maneuver. The maneuver takes place at a very close distance between the nose of the RC-135 and the two rear engines of the fighter.
This action causes turbulence, and the shaking of the American plane can be seen very clearly in the video. This is followed by a rapid departure of the Chinese J-16 on the left side of the RC-135 and lost in the distance. It seems that this was the last maneuver to intercept the American plane.
‘Cut the nose’
Such a dangerous maneuver is known in pilot circles as ‘cut the nose’. This maneuver is not the first time that BulgarianMilitary.com has reported a similar incident with an Australian aircraft. Russian pilots also have a habit of practicing such dangerous interceptions, the maneuvers of which do not really guarantee the safety of either the pilot crews or the equipment.
The Pentagon confirmed the authenticity of the video, describing the interception as dangerous. The US Department of Defense announced that their RC-135 aircraft was flying in international airspace.
The cockpit recording is muted. There has been no official word from the Pentagon on the reason for the audio muting of the cabin conversation. Western and Eastern bloggers suggest that the “comments” in the cockpit were not silenced because of “secret communication”, but because of profanity or fear of the pilots.
Such “incidents” do not happen for the first time. Perhaps the most dangerous was in December last year. Then a Chinese fighter jet intercepted, passing within 10 feet of an American plane.
There was another incident earlier this year. A J-11 and an American P-8 Poseidon jet passed 500 feet away. Then the dangerous maneuver followed after the Chinese fighter appeared aggressively from the left wing of the American aircraft. Some of the communications between the Chinese and American pilots were released, with the Chinese pilot saying “No further approach or you will bear full responsibility”.
Last week’s incident, which we are reporting now, comes shortly after China refused to meet with the US. It is about a meeting between the military ministers of the two countries. Washington proposed to Beijing that it take place on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue. It is an annual security forum held from June 2 to 4 in Singapore.
The May 2022 incident
In May last year, it became one of the most commented and dangerous incidents. Again, a Chinese J-16 fighter was involved in it. Then, on May 26, during a training flight, the J-16 leveled with a Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF] P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft.
The incident proceeded as follows: the J-16 was flying parallel to the Australian aircraft. Flights take place in international airspace. However, the J-16 was sent not to intercept the Australian aircraft, but to conduct a training flight to destroy an aerial target.
For this purpose, a decoy is released at a distance in the distance. The J-16, while flying at the horizontal level of the P-8 fires a missile to destroy the decoy. After firing, the fighter immediately changed course, starting a sharp maneuver and crossing the nose of the P-8.
If the story had ended like that, we could define it as dangerous, but not so. But it wouldn’t. The J-16 hit the decoy in mid-air and its debris plowed into the engine of the Australian aircraft. They cause engine damage, but the aircraft manages to successfully return to its base and land at the airport, with no casualties and no further equipment damage.
The Shenyang J-16 is a Chinese twin-engine fighter developed based on the J-11, which in turn used the Soviet Su-27 as a design source. China began production of the J-16 in 2012 but hid it from the world and unveiled it officially three years later. According to open data sources, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force has over 240 fighters of this model.
The J-16 is a two-seat fighter whose power unit consists of two Shenyang WS-10B afterburning turbofans, 135 kN [30,000 lbf] with afterburner. The fighter is armed with one 30 mm cannon for close air combat or low-flying raids. There are 12 fixed points on the aircraft for attaching weapons. The J-16 is armed with a standard array of weapons, such as air-to-air, air-to-ground, air-to-ship missiles, glide bombs, and free-fall bombs.
As for the RC-135, it is a Cold War-era reconnaissance aircraft developed by Boeing that has received many modifications in recent decades. It is still in service with the United States Air Force. 32 units were built, and in addition to the United States, the Royal Air Force of Great Britain also operates it.
The plane has dozens of variants according to its modification and the mission it has to complete. It is operated by a crew of four – two pilots and two navigators. But that’s just the crew. This aircraft carries in flight between 21 and 27 officers and soldiers who are engaged with intelligence operators. Not all, though. According to open sources, only 14 officers and soldiers scout from the plane, the rest are on-board, system, or engine engineers.
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