Published: 2023-11-03 21:46
Last Updated: 2024-02-25 01:29
A Chinese warplane released flares in front of a Canadian military helicopter over international waters in the South China Sea last Sunday, in an incident described by Canadian military officers as 'reckless' and 'potentially endangering' the aircraft.
Major Rob Millen, the aviation officer aboard the Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Ottawa, from which the Sikorsky Cyclone helicopter was operating, stated, "The danger to a helicopter in this situation is the transfer of the flares to the rotor blades or engines, so launching flares was classified as unsafe, unprofessional, and without standards."
Millen added in an interview with CNN from aboard the warship, "This incident was the second of two confrontations that the helicopter experienced, by Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy fighter jets of the J-11 type, over international waters on October 29th last year, where the fighters approached the helicopter to within 100 feet."
He explained that Canada and other nations have witnessed instances of Chinese aircraft approaching fixed-wing aircraft on multiple occasions, but it is rare to see such action against a helicopter.
The first incident occurred over international waters 34 nautical miles from the Paracel Islands in the northern part of the South China Sea.
The second incident also took place over international waters, 23 nautical miles from the Paracel Islands. The Canadian warship was operating in international waters, approximately 100 nautical miles (160 kilometers) east of the Paracel Islands at the time.
Officers aboard the Ottawa stated that the Canadian helicopter was searching for a previously detected submarine when both incidents occurred.
Millen added that he was piloting the Canadian helicopter earlier in the day when it was intercepted by Chinese J-11 fighter jets at close range while flying straight at an altitude of 3,000 feet above the water towards the HMCS Ottawa, indicating that there was no hostile intent.
In that previous encounter, Millen said the Chinese fighters circled around his helicopter.
He added, "As the intercepting aircraft got closer and closer, at a certain point it became unsafe."
He stated that his helicopter experienced turbulence when maneuvering away from the Chinese aircraft, which also posed a risk to the helicopter.
Notably, China claims historical control over the entire vast South China Sea.
Major world powers often pass through the South China Sea to assert that the region is international waters, which angers Beijing, CNN wrote.
The waterway, covering an area of 1.3 million square miles, is crucial for international trade, with approximately one-third of global shipping, valued in trillions of dollars annually, passing through it.
It is also home to rich and expansive fishing grounds.