skip to main content

US says PLA J-16 conducted ‘unsafe' manoeuvre ahead of RC-135

A Chinese SAC J-16 fighter flies in front of a USAF RC-135V Rivet Joint aircraft over the South China Sea on 26 May 2023. This is a screen-grab from a video of the incident. (US Department of Defense)

The United States has said that a Chinese Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-16 fighter aircraft conducted an unsafe manoeuvre near a US Air Force (USAF) Boeing RC-135V Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft on 26 May.

US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) said in a statement on 30 May that the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) J-16 “performed an unnecessarily aggressive manoeuvre during the intercept of a US Air Force RC-135 aircraft”.

INDOPACOM added that the Chinese “pilot flew directly in front of the nose of the RC-135, forcing the US aircraft to fly through its wake turbulence”. This action describes the buffeting turbulence experienced by an aircraft caused by another jet aircraft flying in close proximity ahead of it.

The incident took place over the South China Sea, according to INDOPACOM.

In a video of the incident released by the US Department of Defense (DoD), the Chinese J-16, which was flying about 300 m off the RC-135's starboard side, can be seen executing a banking turn. The J-16 subsequently flew across the nose of the RC-135. Janes assesses that the J-16 crossed ahead of the RC-135 at a range of 200–300 m.

The video shows the RC-135 encountering turbulence. The J-16 appeared not to have used afterburners during the manoeuvre. According to INDOPACOM, the RC-135 was “conducting safe and routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace, in accordance with international law”.

A Janes

Looking to read the full article?

Gain unlimited access to Janes news and more...