Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chinese jets chase U.S. surveillance jet over Taiwan Strait

Two Chinese warplanes intercepted an American spy plane over the tense Taiwan Strait last month in China’s most aggressive challenge to U.S. surveillance flights since a 2001 collision that touched off an international crisis.

According to defense officials, the intercept took place June 29. The two Chinese jets flew from a base in China to head off an Air Force U-2 spy plane over the dividing line in the 100-mile wide Taiwan Strait.

“In general, these reconnaissance flights are conducted in international airspace, as are the PRC [Chinese] intercepts, which happen fairly routinely,” said a Pentagon official familiar with the incident.

“There is no ‘repel’ aspect to them,” he said of reports from Asia that the Chinese jets had “repelled” the U-2 flight during the intercept.

A Pacific Command spokesman declined to provide details of the incident other than to say it occurred June 29 as the Air Force was conducting a routine operation in international airspace in the area of the East China Sea.

Other officials said the U-2 had taken off from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa as part of a routine surveillance program of China.

The Chinese Su-27 jets tried to follow the U-2 as it flew south along the western dividing line on the Taiwan Strait.

According to the officials, at one point the Su-27s split up in pursuing the U-2. One jet turned back before crossing the median line, and the second continued across the line until two Taiwanese F-16s took off to intercept it.

It is not known how the Su-27s were able to follow the U-2, which normally flies at much higher altitudes than the warplanes...

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