Canada’s Department of National Defence has issued a statement after a navy helicopter was involved in several “unsafe” encounters with Chinese fighter jets over the South China Sea.
The intercepts occurred on Oct. 29 while the HMCS Ottawa – based out of CFB Esquimalt – was deployed in the region as part of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.
On Sunday, a CH-148 Cyclone helicopter flew off of the Canadian Navy ship to conduct routine exercises in the area when it was intercepted by two People’s Liberation Army J-11 fighter jets, according to a DND release Friday.
“Though the initial encounter was safe, two subsequent encounters were deemed unsafe,” the DND said.
During a second pass, one of the jets flew close to the helicopter, causing the Canadian aircraft to experience turbulence and forcing the pilot to respond.
On another pass later that same day, the helicopter was intercepted by another fighter jet “which launched flares directly in front of the helicopter.”
“The helicopter pilot had to manoeuvre to avoid the flares and reduce the risk of ingesting a flare into the helicopter’s rotor and intakes,” said the DND.
The helicopter was not damaged in any of the incidents.
The Canadian Armed Forces says these two intercepts, which occurred in international airspace, are considered unsafe.
An unsafe intercept is defined as putting an aircraft in danger, or requiring a pilot to avoid a collision, according to the CAF.
“The Canadian aircraft was subject to multiple close-proximity manoeuvres by a People’s Liberation Army J-11 fighter jet that put the safety of all personnel involved at unnecessary risk,” said the DND.
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The Canadian Armed Forces says the HMCS Ottawa will continue its mission in the Indo-Pacific region.
It adds that it expects any interceptions of Canadian aircraft to “be conducted in a safe and professional manner.”
“HMCS Ottawa, along with the U.S. Navy’s USS Rafael Peralta, recently conducted a routine transit through the Taiwan Strait,” reads a social media post from the Canadian Armed Forces on Thursday.
“Together with our allies, Canada supports the rules-based international order by operating in accordance with international law. Our activities promote peace, resilience and security in the IndoPacific,” the post continues.