• A Chinese jet released flares close to an Australian military helicopter.
  • This intercept is not the first 'unsafe and unprofessional' incident involving Chinese aircraft.
  • China routinely engages in unsafe intercepts of US and allied aircraft.

The Australian government said Monday that a Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force fighter jet released flares dangerously close to an Australian Defence Force helicopter over the weekend.

The PLAAF jet intercepted the Royal Australian Navy MH-60R helicopter attached to HMAS Hobart in the Yellow Sea and "released flares across the flight path of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) helicopter," the Australian government said in a statement.

The Australian warship was in the area in support of Operation Argos, which is aimed at enforcing sanctions on North Korea.

Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said a Chinese J-10 fighter aircraft popped flares about 300 meters in front of the helicopter and about 60 meters above it, per reporting from the AP.

Canberra called China's flight conduct in this interaction "unsafe and unprofessional."

"This was an unsafe manoeuvre which posed a risk to the aircraft and personnel," the statement said. "While there were no injuries sustained by ADF personnel or damage caused to the MH-60R helicopter, the safety and wellbeing of our ADF personnel continues to be our utmost priority."

Beijing has yet to publicly respond to the allegations.

This isn't the first incident involving a Chinese jet engaging in troubling behavior in the vicinity of an Australian aircraft.

In June 2022, a Chinese J-16 patrolling the South China Sea released flares and chaff, or strips of aluminum intended to confuse the radar on a missile, close enough to an Australian P-8 that the strips got caught in its engine.

The US released records in October 2023 reporting numerous instances of aggressive flight conduct from China.

The 2023 Department of Defense report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China found that from fall 2021 to 2023, there were over 180 cases of "coercive and risky air intercepts against U.S. aircraft in the region" linked to Chinese aircraft.

This number of cases recorded over the course of two years is more than in the past decade.

"The PLA's behavior contravenes flight safety protocols and the international maritime rules of the road, and increases the risk of a major accident, incident, or crisis, including the potential for loss of life," the report said.

Read the original article on Business Insider