Chinese fighter aircraft are frequently flying so close that Canadian pilots can make eye contact with the Chinese pilots, and sometimes see them raising their middle fingers.
Multiple sources in the Canadian Forces and the federal government told to Global News that Chinese jets are repeatedly “buzzing” the Canadian surveillance plane that is part of a United Nations mission over international waters.
Chinese fighter aircraft are frequently flying as close as 20 to 100 feet from the CP-140, sources say — so close that Canadian pilots can make eye contact with the Chinese pilots, and sometimes see them raising their middle fingers.
“(That distance is) scary close at those high speeds, and it could lead to disaster in a crash,” said Charles Burton, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa.
The CP-140 Aurora and its crew are based in Kadena, Japan under Operation NEON, Canada’s contribution to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed against North Korea.
The CP-140 Aurora is a long-range patrol aircraft (it is based on the Lockheed P-3 Orion airframe, but mounts the electronics suite of the Lockheed S-3 Viking) used for multiple types of missions over land and water.
The Aurora supports a wide variety of roles, including operations management, maritime and overland intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, strike coordination, and search and rescue. It can also assist other government agencies to combat, illegal fishing, pollution, drug trafficking, and more.
Anonymous sources told Global News that there have been approximately 60 intercepts and over two dozen of them were considered as dangerous.
The Department of National Defence confirmed the incidents, saying that there were cases whereby the crew “felt sufficiently at risk that they had to quickly modify their own flight path in order to increase separation and avoid a potential collision with the intercepting aircraft.”
The Canadian government has sent multiple diplomatic reprimands to Beijing about the incidents, according to the sources, calling the Chinese pilots’ conduct “unsafe and unprofessional.” China is not believed to have responded to those reprimands, which have not stopped the incidents from continuing.
According to Global News, before each mission, pilots and their commanders discuss potential risks and whether to proceed with a flight. The concern now, the source said, is that the “buzzing” tactic by Chinese fighter jet pilots is here to stay, raising the risk level for future flights.
The series of UN sanctions, imposed between 2006 and 2017, aim to pressure North Korea to abandon its weapons of mass destruction programs and respond to North Korean nuclear weapon tests and ballistic missile launches.
China has increased its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region over the last two years, particularly around Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory. It has stepped up drills and manoeuvres around the island, and confirmed on Wednesday that it has conducted a combat “readiness patrol” in the sea and air in recent days.
The Chinese government has also continued to support North Korea economically and financially despite a renewed spate of rocket launches this year, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, which has drawn condemnation from its Asian neighbours and the West.
Last month, China and Russia vetoed new sanctions backed by the US at the UN Security Council in response to North Korea’s weapons tests.