Officials: Chinese fighter jet came dangerously close to colliding with U.S. B-52

A People’s Republic of China J-11 pilot executes an intercept of a U.S. Air Force B-52 in the South China Sea on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command

Oct. 26 (UPI) -- A Chinese fighter jet came dangerously close to colliding with a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber over the South China Sea on Tuesday, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the U.S. aircraft was lawfully conducting routine operations in international airspace when a People's Republic of China J-11 pilot came within 10 feet of the plane.

During the nighttime intercept, which was captured on video, officials say the Chinese pilot flew "in an unsafe and unprofessional manner" with excessive speed, weaving above and below the U.S. aircraft.

"We are concerned this pilot was unaware of how close he came to causing a collision," the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a news release.

The incident comes a little more than a week after the Department of Defense released images and videos that illustrate reportedly hazardous operational conduct by the People's Liberation Army directed at U.S. aircraft operating legally within the surrounding international airspace.

DOD officials believe that the unsafe interceptions of U.S. and allied aircraft in international airspace is coordinated and deliberate effort by the Chinese.

Last week, Ely Ratner, the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs addressed the media at the Pentagon to discuss the threats posed by Chinese intercepts to regional peace.

"Since the fall of 2021, we have seen more than 180 such incidents -- more in the past two years than in the decade before that," Ratner 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."

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Joint Force said it intends to maintain a "free and open Indo-Pacific region" are urged all nations in the Indo-Pacific to operate safely within international airspace while respecting international law.