Video shows Chinese fighters flying 20-feet from US jets and ‘flashing weapons’

The Pentagon has declassified 15 videos of Chinese pilots engaging in “coercive and risky” behaviour against US jets in lawful international airspace.

The chilling footage shows the Chinese fighter jets deploying a number of intimidating tactics, such as shooting flares, “flashing their weapons” and flying as close as within 20 feet.

The posturing is consistent with Chinese activity since 2021, with 180 instances of such behavior reported during this period.

The foreign state engaged in even more aerial skirmishes in the decades that preceded.


In one particularly brazen encounter, from July 12, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fighter jet deploys eight flares just 900 feet from a US plane above the East China Sea.

Another taken on July 7 shows a Chinese plane lurking a mere 20 feet away from a US fighter jet above the South China Sea.

Similarly, a video captured on February 15 shows a PLA plane within 70 feet of a Chinese asset. The aircraft is so close the US pilot is able to clearly film the Chinese pilot opposite.

One of the most egregious encounters, which took place on June 22, involved a PLA “flashing its weapons” at a US pilot before swearing at them over the radio.

In an accompanying description, the Pentagon said the Chinese asset was “approaching a distance of just 40 feet before repeatedly flying above and below the US aircraft and flashing its weapons.

“After the US operator radioed the PLA fighter jet, the PLA pilot responded using explicit language, including an expletive”.


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The shocking video shows the PLA jet rocketing towards the US pilots in the distance before zooming past the front of the US plane.

The brazen encounter forces the US pilots to fly through the Chinese jet’s wake turbulence which causes the cockpit to shudder and jolt.

The string of incidents have been designated “coercive and risky” which sits below “unsafe and unprofessional” in the classification scale, which is used when behaviour puts lives at risk.

But Head of US Indo-Pacific Command Adm. John Aquilino suggested this blanket term is not helpful as a subset of the 180 instances are squarely “unsafe and unprofessional”.


The crash killed the Chinese pilot and left the American crew temporarily detained.

“People’s lives are at risk,” Aquilino said. “One accident is too many. We went through it in 2001.”

Assistant Defense Secretary for the Indo-Pacific Ely Ratner described how PLA jets have flown dangerously close to the US assets at “hundreds of miles an hour”. He called the incidents a “significant concern”.

Discussing the alarming frequency of the incidents, he said: “That’s nearly 200 cases where PLA operators have performed reckless maneuvers or discharged chaff or shot off flares or approached too rapidly or too close to U.S. aircraft — all as part of trying to interfere with the ability of U.S. forces to operate safely.”

He added that the figure soars to around 300 when intercepts against other allied aircraft are taken into account.

Ratner said: “The bottom line is this type of operational behavior can cause accidents, and dangerous accidents can lead to inadvertent conflict.”


Earlier this year, the US military shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast after it traversed sensitive military sites across North America. China insisted the flyover was an accident involving a civilian aircraft and threatened repercussions.