PLAAF JH-7 Flounder bombers harassed a NATO member’s warship

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On June 7, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force [PLAAF] deployed two Xi’an JH-7 fighter jets, commonly known as Flounder, and a Z-19 light reconnaissance helicopter to the East China Sea. They encountered the Royal Netherlands Navy’s De Zeven Provincien-class frigate. According to the Netherlands Ministry of Defense, these aggressive aerial maneuvers by the Chinese aircraft compelled the Dutch frigate to take evasive actions. 

The frigate, HNLMS Tromp, was on a mission to enforce maritime sanctions against North Korea as mandated by UN Security Council resolutions. While patrolling, two Chinese fighter jets repeatedly circled the frigate, creating a tense situation. The Defense Ministry’s statement detailed these encounters but did not specify the exact type of Chinese aircraft involved. 

In addition to its advanced radar systems, the frigate was equipped with an NH90 naval combat chopper. The Dutch Ministry of Defense noted that this helicopter was also subjected to Chinese aerial surveillance. The Z-19 circled the NH90 multiple times, heightening the already precarious situation and further escalating tensions.

Photo credit: Twitter

Beijing quickly countered Amsterdam’s claims. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Zhang Xiaogang addressed reporters on Tuesday, asserting that Amsterdam aimed to “cover up the violation” of China’s maritime rights. He accused the Dutch of falsely claiming to be conducting a UN mission and demonstrating force in waters and airspace under Chinese jurisdiction. This dispute mirrors a recent incident where a People’s Liberation Army fighter jet discharged flares into the flight path of an Australian helicopter, also engaged in enforcing UN sanctions. 

Reflecting on a past event, at the end of May 2022, tension escalated over the South China Sea between a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Shenyang J-16 fighter and an Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon. On May 26, a Chinese J-16 fighter aligned parallel and at the same altitude to the left of a patrolling Australian P-8A Poseidon.

A Chinese J-16 fighter jet embarks on a training mission to intercept an airborne decoy. During this tense exercise, as the two aircraft draw close, the Chinese jet fires missiles toward the decoy. The situation escalates as the fighter then executes a hazardous maneuver, accelerating and crossing directly beneath the Australian P-8A Poseidon’s flight path. 

Video screenshot

The incident intensifies further when remnants of the Chinese decoy get caught in the engine of the Australian P-8A Poseidon. Fortunately, the engine remains undamaged, allowing the Australian pilots to safely navigate back to their military base. 

In its annual report on China’s military capabilities last year, the US Defense Department noted over 280 risky and coercive aerial interceptions of US and allied aircraft by Chinese jets since 2021. 

The Chinese JH-7, also known as the ‘Flying Leopard,’ is a twin-engine fighter-bomber made by the Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation. It is meant for both ground attack and anti-ship missions, making it a versatile addition to China’s military aviation. The JH-7 is about 73 feet long, has a wingspan of 42 feet, and stands 20 feet tall. These dimensions help it carry a lot of weapons and be very flexible in different missions. 

Photo credit: PLAAF

The JH-7 is powered by two turbofan engines, which give it a top speed of about 1,335 mph [Mach 1.75] and enable it to fly up to 52,500 feet high. The JH-7 has a strong airframe that can handle tough combat situations. It also has an advanced fly-by-wire control system, boosting its agility. Additionally, it can refuel in mid-air, which extends how far and long it can perform missions.

The JH-7 is packed with advanced electronics. It has a radar that can track multiple targets, a head-up display [HUD] to help pilots stay aware, and an electronic warfare [EW] system to protect against enemy radar and missiles. These features make the JH-7 effective in tough combat situations. 

The JH-7 has a powerful set of weapons. It can carry bombs, anti-ship missiles, and rockets for both air-to-ground and air-to-sea attacks. It also has a 23mm twin-barrel cannon for close combat and strafing. This wide range of weapons lets the JH-7 hit many types of targets accurately. It can fly up to 1,650 kilometers [1,025 miles] in combat without refueling.

Photo by Dmitriy Pichugin

The Dutch frigate, HNLMS Tromp, is part of the De Zeven Provinciën-class of the Royal Netherlands Navy. It’s quite large for a frigate, with an overall length of about 473 feet, a beam of 62 feet, and a draft of 17 feet. These dimensions make it one of the bigger frigates in service. 

HNLMS Tromp uses a Combined Diesel and Gas [CODAG] propulsion system. It has two Wärtsilä diesel engines and two Rolls-Royce Spey gas turbines, generating around 52,000 horsepower. This setup allows the frigate to reach speeds of up to 30 knots. 

The frigate’s full load displacement is about 6,050 tons. It’s packed with advanced systems, including the Thales Nederland SMART-L long-range radar, the APAR [Active Phased Array Radar] for tracking and engagement, and the SEWACO XI combat management system.

The HNLMS Tromp is armed with various powerful weapons. These include a 127 mm Oto Melara naval gun, vertical launch systems for Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles [ESSM] and SM-2 Block IIIA missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and torpedo tubes for Mk 46 torpedoes. It also has a Goalkeeper CIWS [Close-In Weapon System] for close-range defense against threats. 

The HNLMS Tromp has a flight deck and hangar that can hold an NH90 helicopter. This helicopter can be used for missions like anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, and more. This setup makes the frigate more flexible and extends its operational range.

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