On November 5, 2023, Chinese fighter aircraft intercepted a Canadian military CH-148 Cyclone helicopter three times in the South China Sea.
China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) dispatched two J-11 fighters to intercept a Canadian helicopter on three separate occasions. The helicopter in question was operating from the Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax-class frigate, HMCS Ottawa.
The maneuvers, which were considered highly perilous by Canadian National Defense Minister Bill Blair, took place while the helicopter was involved in standard training exercises as part of Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy. This strategy is aimed at upholding freedom of navigation in international waters near China’s coastline.
According to the report from the Canadian ministry, one of the Chinese fighters conducted a close-proximity maneuver over the Canadian helicopter during the initial encounter, generating wake turbulence and necessitating the helicopter to take evasive actions to safeguard its safety. Later in the day, another fighter discharged flares directly in front of the helicopter, creating a potential hazard to the helicopter’s rotor and air intakes.
The Canadian Department of National Defense asserted that all of these interactions occurred in international airspace, well clear of any claimed territorial seas and their associated airspace. The Canadian Armed Forces maintain that it is unsafe to intercept an aircraft’s maneuvers when such actions place our aircraft at risk or compel the pilot to make evasive maneuvers to prevent a collision.
This marks the second instance of Chinese jets intercepting a Canadian aircraft in under three weeks. On October 16, 2023, several Chinese fighters intercepted a Canadian CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft. The encounter was captured on film by journalists who were on board the Canadian flight.