Military Aviation

Video shows Chinese Navy J-11 fighter jet flying within 20 feet of USAF RC-135 reconnaissance plane

The Chinese Navy J-11 pilot flew an unsafe maneuver by flying in front of and within 20 feet of the nose of the RC-135, forcing the RC-135 to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision.

A Chinese Navy J-11 fighter jet intercepted a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane in an incident over the South China Sea last week, US Indo-Pacific Command said on Dec. 29, 2022. According to INDOPACOM statement;

“On Dec. 21 (China Standard Time), a People’s Liberation Army – Navy J-11 fighter pilot performed an unsafe maneuver during an intercept of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft, which was lawfully conducting routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace. The PLAN pilot flew an unsafe maneuver by flying in front of and within 20 feet of the nose of the RC-135, forcing the RC-135 to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision.”

Video released by the combatant command shows the PLAN jet flying close to the Air Force plane.

The INDOPACOM statement continued;

“The U.S. Indo-Pacific Joint Force is dedicated to a free and open Indo-Pacific region and will continue to fly, sail and operate at sea and in international airspace with due regard for the safety of all vessels and aircraft under international law. We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law.”

As reported by USNI News, the Dec. 21 incident occurred on the first day of the Russia-China Joint Sea 2022 drills in the East China Sea.

The Shenyang J-11 (NATO reporting name Flanker B+), is a single-seat, twin-engine jet fighter, whose airframe is based on the Soviet-designed Sukhoi Su-27 air superiority fighter. It is currently manufactured by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation.

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. RC-135S Cobra Ball 55th Wing, 45th Reconnaissance Squadron, 61-2663 – Offutt AFB, NE – 2015

The J-11 was born in 1998 as a Chinese version of the Soviet-designed Sukhoi Su-27SK air superiority fighter after China secured a $US2.5 billion production agreement which licensed China to build 200 Su-27SK aircraft using Russian-supplied kits. Under the terms of the agreement, these aircraft would be outfitted with Russian avionics, radars and engines. However, in 2004, Russian media reported that Shenyang co-production of the basic J-11 was halted after around 100 examples were built. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) later revealed a mock-up of an upgraded multi-role version of the J-11 in mid-2002.

The indigenous J-11B variant incorporates various Chinese material modifications and upgrades to the airframe with improved manufacturing methods in addition to the inclusion of domestic Chinese technologies such as radar, avionics suites and weaponry, including anti-ship and PL-12 air-to-air missiles presumably for the role of a maritime strike aircraft. The alleged reason for the sudden stop in the production line of the J-11 was because it could no longer satisfy the PLAAF’s requirements, due to elements such as the obsolete avionics and radar.

As of today, the J-11/J-11B’s legitimacy remains unproven.

Photo credit: U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. Air Force

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

View Comments

  • i am sure russia & china r cookin up plans 4 an invasion of U.S. i hope we're ready 4 it!

  • Here is a link to the Chinese version with video taken by the J-11's wingman of the event blaming the RC-135 pilot of endangering the J-11 by maneuvering his aircraft aggressively near the J-11. Note the Chinese video does not show the RC-135 maneuvering at all. The video taken from the RC-135 shows the J-11 who intercepted the transport category aircraft with 20+ souls on board without benefit of ejection seats, probably without parachutes or a wingman like the J-11s flying directly in front of the RC-135's stable flight path. I'm pretty sure the J-11's pilot can no longer see the RC-135 unless he is trying to fly formation on the aircraft he can only see from a windscreen bow mounted mirror.
    Global Times video blaming US for dangerous flying.
    Here's the Chinese version.
    Here's a link to an account of my intercept of a Soviet TU-16 Badger bomber out of Vladivostok in the Sea of Japan in an F-4B off the USS Midway.
    My Alert 5 TU-16 Badger intercept

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