Chinese Su-27 Jet Threatened U.S. Surveillance Aircraft with a barrel roll stunt over the top of it

Aug 22 2014 - 72 Comments

A Chinese Su-27 Flanker flew within 50 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

It looks like not only Russian Su-27 Flanker are involved in close encounters with U.S. surveillance planes around the world.

As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, a Chinese Su-27 flew dangerously close to a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) aircraft over the East China Sea, on Aug. 19.

The P-8, a derivative of the Boeing 737, capable to carry the Mk-54 airborne torpedo and the Harpoon anti-ship missile, and to perform ASW missions as well as ISR (Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance) tasks, was conducting a routine surveillance mission in international airspace when a Chinese Flanker intercepted it.

Routine stuff, until the Chinese jet flew within 50 feet of the Poseidon “and then carried out a barrel roll over the top of the aircraft” a maneuver meant to threaten the American aircraft, as commented by US officials familiar with the incident who have talked to Washington Free Beacon’s

The American jet was one of the aircraft assigned to U.S. Navy’s VP-16, a squadron based at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, that has been deployed to Kadena, Okinawa, one the largest U.S. airbases in the Asia-Pacific region, located about 400 chilometers East of the disputed Senkaku islands (Diaoyu for China), since December 2013.

Navy’s Poseidons not only assisted rescue efforts in the Philippines, supporting Operation Damayan, but they are constantly monitoring Chinese movements in region where tension is still high following the establishment of a Chinese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

As already recalled when reporting about the RC-135U intercept last June, on Apr. 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3E with the VQ-1, flying an ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) mission in international airspace 64 miles southeast of the island of Hainan was intercepted by two PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) J-8 fighters.

One of the J-8s piloted by Lt. Cdr. Wang Wei, made two close passes to the EP-3 before colliding with the spyplane on the third pass. As a consequence, the J-8 broke into two pieces and crashed into the sea causing the death of the pilot, whereas the EP-3, severely damaged, performed an unauthorized landing at China’s Lingshui airfield.

The 24 crew members (21 men and three women), that destroyed all (or at least most of ) the sensitive items and data on board the aircraft, were detained by Chinese authorities until Apr. 11.

H/T to Isaac Alexander for the heads-up

P-8A Safe Sep Harpoon #1 T-3 BuNo 167954 TD Ray Samora.

Image credit: PLAAF, U.S. Navy


  • Rudy

    This reminds me of that time when a Chinese J-8 fighter had a mid-air collision with an US EP-3E Aries.

  • I am sure Obama and Sgt. Hagel will send them an angry letter. :-)

    • tim robinson

      Now Winston, you’re an intelligent man and I enjoy your writings tho even the most political of political hacks would enjoy your hypocrisy, or borderline sarcasm??

      At least their letter would be angry, rather than the somewhat, very confused ‘apology/non apology’ letter from Bush’s admin re: the Hainan encounter, JR stuffed up with the hard line approach, adjusted to soft diplomacy then back pedalled when HW reminded him ‘Son, never apologise for America, no matter the facts, never apologise for the US’

      Really, both ‘leaders’ have very little idea on how to handle China..

  • InklingBooks

    The solution is quite simple. China gets a firm warning that notes “serious consequences.” If this happens again, the FAA begins random, detailed inspections of Chinese-flag aircraft at U.S. airports. This means they sit on the runway for days awaiting inspection and repair.

    When China complains, cite safety concerns about Chinese aviation—pointing specifically to those dangerous aerial encounters and noting them as evidence that China does not take air safety seriously. And if China retaliates, escalate to cargo aircraft. They need their cargos to land here more than we need the opposite.

    We’d do that if we had a real president. Heck, if we had a real president, we wouldn’t need to do anything. The nasties of this world would be much better behaved.

    • Santa HoHoHo

      They can do that. But remember, American companies will protest against the governments’ action because they will lose money. China on the other hand can just replace US with Russia, it’s easy especially after EU and US sanctioned Russia. lol

      • tim robinson

        China must get real sick & tired if every westerner thinking its a war like dominant invading force that aims to divide the world …. Honestly, they’re not the US, they’re not trying to force total world opinion, they’re just the neighbours who get on with it.

        • OG_Locc

          Apparently you’ve been in hibernation the last 30 years.

          • tim robinson

            That 30 years while they sat and watched every war that’s been fought by the US and allies? Strange you use 30 years given it’s 30 years this year that the US stopped brazen overflying China when China finally deceived S6 and S8 SAMs

            Exactly what ‘aggressive’ actions has china committed against the US whilst the US has set up bases, stationed soldiers closer, pacific pivots etc

            My momma taught me it’s actions not words that count, and for me it’s been 35 years of seeing fellow Australians die in Asia, the world, due to blindly following the US into multiple POINTLESS. wars, so yeah, been awake thanks

        • Flyn_Bryan

          I think Japan would disagree with you. Have you been keeping tabs on the Senkaku/Diaoyu island issue? Seems like things are heating up between the two countries. China is becoming a dominant world power with “interests”.

          • tim robinson

            Interests are like saying Isolationism, like the US in the 30s, when peace was actually possible due to a kowtowed military industrial complex.

            The ‘disputed’ area in question, has the same answer as Israel/Palestine conflict which is basically ‘god only knows’

            Personally, I recall the 30s, Japan committed such amazing atrocities we prefer not to remember them but China copped the worst, Japan did not pay one cent in reparations for their acts (just take a moment to check this in case you have forgotten what your grandfather saw & experienced, or at least known someone who did)


            Ok, personally it makes my head spin… So given that, and US backing since 1945, it’s no wonder that the second largest economy wants to preserve itself especially given Abe’s recent change to the constitution

            One last thing, yes Japan has changed as a nation though maybe not the mentality… Given their actions in history I can’t think of many nations that are scarier being rearmed & given an indigenous military industry

            Yes, this just one opinion, it’s just not popular because it tends to look on Japan in a less positive light than China

    • The catch is, incidents like this one takes two to tango, so the United States would still also have to answer on behalf of their own actions, namely, the reason why there was a US Navy surveillance aircraft near Chinese airspace in the first place. And let’s not pretend that NATO countries don’t scramble their own aircraft whenever Moscow sends a Bear to do a few patrols. It would be quite easy to put the blame on China for compromising “air safety” if this were solely an isolated and unprovoked incident, but much less so when two governments, both with agendas, are involved.

      Targeting the enemy’s civilian fleet, as do sanctions, acts as a double edged sword. The United States would gain nothing but political fire from both domestic audiences and foreign organizations, not to mention the massive complaints that will undoubtedly emanate from US-based airlines. This doesn’t even consider that China’s government is unlikely to put a stop to those interceptions due to a new policy that is only affecting its nationals in the United States, whose ire will most likely be directed at the latter. And let’s not even begin on the ramifications that it will have on American businesses that pertain to the airline industry.

      And finally, it would take quite the effort to justify the hindrance of civilian transportation with something that is of a completely different realm and that was caused by a wholly different group of people.

    • Miller

      Like the US never performed -INTERCEPTIONS- on foreign aircrafts before lol.

    • OR

      Look at you, great strategical mind – you have figured it all out haven’t you?).. surprised you are not proposing to start the war with China straight away.. very typical ignorant approach: let’s show them who is who so that they behave better.. how is that different from what that flanker pilot did, risking his and others lives?.. How many times in our history we need to fail to realise it does not work like this.. How about trying harder and understand other nations cultural differences?.. And plan your strategy based on the mutual respect in the first place?

    • Victorinox

      If we’ve had a “real” president, he probably would’ve apologized for the incident… Like Bush Jr did back in 2001. In fact, the “real” president was so sorry, that the apology letter became know as the “Letter of the Two Sorries”…

    • Enforcer57

      CORRECT. And screw what Japan and US companies think. The reason they do this crap is because we have a re-incarnated Neville Chamberlain as Pres (if you need to google that, you really should study WW2 a bit before you comment on here). Some F-22 Escorts at a distance would also be useful, they’ve done that before (in the days of spinal fluid in the white house), just show up and freak out the guys hassling our AC (Iranians in that case). They can’t see them on radar, it’s what they are designed for, they will scoot out of there as fast as their big Sukhoi butz will carry them.

  • Anil

    I am sure that Chinese pilot was inspired by Top Gun movie, can’t blame him as it looked awesome in movie.

  • Pedro Alcontes

    Performing a barrel roll close to another aircraft is clearly an act of war..which obviously calls for an immediate, strong response by the Pacific area deployed forces, teach them a lesson !

    • Ryan Hall

      Let them beat your shits out again? They used two puppies to defeat us in Korea and Vietnam when they was much weaker than they are today…A direct confrontation with them? Forget it! We need to prepare enough white flags to save our soldiers

      • Bettenguy

        “Beat your shits out again?”

        Nice revisionist history. The outcomes of those wars were political, not military, decisions. It certainly wasn’t because the US forces were losing the battles on the ground.

      • Cody3/75

        Man, I sure hope I can make up history like you in the future. Might want to study a real history book and see what ultimately happened in Korea. Even after the little cowards streamed across the border against us unannounced.

        Same thing with Vietnam. Militarily, the US decimated the enemy in Vietnam. If you’re trying to make a case for Chinese military supremacy, then try to find an instance where they didn’t get stomped on…

        “Beat your shits out again?” Rofl, how about you avoid attempting any form of English slang until you’re sure you won’t end up sounding like an absolute moron…

    • Candle

      An IQ 50 level comments.

      • kusanagi no tsurugi

        The fact you don’t understand irony,on your side, tells the world your IQ is dramatically close to zero

    • “Performing a barrel roll close to another aircraft is clearly an act of war”

      Says who? Let’s not spin this incident to our own interpretations without further details of the interception as well as responses from both of the involved governments.

      • Pedro Alcontes

        How can you be so smart? Can you tell me please?

        • That’s a question that you should be asking yourself; where did you get the notion that a barrel roll is an act of war?

  • Mr. Potato Head

    Once our president shows them his “Angry Eyes” I can guarantee they will never think of doing such a feat again.

  • Uranium238

    F-22s need to do watch from a decent distance tif the PLAAF continue to threaten our maritime patrols. This is crap. All they need to do is give a nice little RWR lock beep in one of those harrassing Flankers, tell them they can see them, then watch them run home to mommy dragon.

    • tim robinson

      Lol all 130 of them… Amazing one on one aircraft though no one, who actually knows, believes that a 130 aircraft fleet is operationally sustainable in a high attrition combat scenario

      F22s show up and all that’ll happen is a six to one environment in the South China Sea evolving into god knows what

      Btw don’t knock a nation who can flip out stealth planes based on US plans within a couple of years while the US is still having engine issues, at that rate they’ll be selling ‘SU50’s to National Guard units

      • Misanthropik

        There are 187 operational F-22s.

        • tim robinson

          With a record %65 2013 availability rate… Up a massive ten percent on 2013

          Can’t fly it if it’s not flyable

          • twistedneck

            65% isn’t bad, its a reflection of the technology required. You reach beyond and things get difficult. _Please insert pro Chinese comment here_

            • tim robinson

              Ok I like China – great food

              Oh wait I like burgers too, can I like both? Is that okay?

        • jagigen

          I believe Tim is refering to the number of combat ready F-22s.

      • twistedneck

        Engines are 10yrs behind.. is that flipping in a couple years?

    • And there would be no difference in political and geostrategic terms whether the US decides or not to respond to these interceptions which, mind you, were meted out in answer to an American aircraft that was straggling CHINESE airspace. Both sides know the formulaic procedure of these interceptions and both know better than to escalate it into a quagmire that both governments would have no hopes of getting out of. And as such, there is no motive for either side to up the ante.

      One other complication that is being overlooked would be the critical leak of classified data, such as the Raptor’s radar-cross-section, that would be of great value to the Chinese should they move in to intercept the Chinese aircraft. It’s no doubt the preservation of these secrets are of far more importance to the US government than is a little show-of-force for their enemy.

      • Bettenguy

        They weren’t in Chinese airspace.

        • Never said they were in Chinese airspace; they were straggling it.

  • FoilHatWearer

    Considering the Chinese pilots’ propensity to crash into aircraft that they’re escorting, I’d be worried.

    • When did one incident, one plane, and one pilot become a confirmed statistic?

    • STOVL fan

      Yeah, recall the 1994 ‘Green Ramp’ incident that involved Chinese pilots’ propensity to crash…? Yeah. Blame that one on Bill Clinton.

      • FoilHatWearer

        That incident has nothing to do with anything we’re talking here. Try to stick to the subject.

  • Ignatius

    So, WinstonCDN, InklingBooks, and Mr. Potato Head, remind us of the strong response President Bush gave the last time this happened…

    • That was wrong too. But at least Bush had balls.

      • Pedro Alcontes

        Confusing balls with stupidity..tipical of North American people

        • Cody3/75

          Making blanket statements about an entire continent with multiple languages, ethnic makeups, and cultural backgrounds…”tipical” of idiots.

          • Pedro Alcontes

            That’s the point, you don’t have a background like the rest of the world, yet you act like you have the right to stick your nose everywhere.

            • Cody3/75

              What are you even talking about? Background like the rest of the world? What an absolutely retarded phrase. What does American foreign policy have to do with the fact that you’re too ignorant to understand that N. America is probably the most culturally diverse place on the planet. You’re an absolute moron….

        • Awww. Cute!

        • Flyn_Bryan

          Lot of haters on this board. Sad.

          • Pedro Alcontes

            You can Blame your last 30 years of foreign policy.

            • Flyn_Bryan

              Bad ole America! I mean what have they ever really done for us?!?! For some reason this reminds me of a Monty Python scene in the “Life of Bryan”.

      • tim robinson

        Bush had siht… He faced endless criticism for being the tough guy who bowed, and wrote a letter to China saying sorry! How’s that balls??

  • Vernon G Gano Jr

    I see once more the childish comments are taking up most of this space, what a bunch of sore losers grow up.

  • 967063508

    Weren’t they participating in the CINCPAC Fleet exercises at Pearl Harbor this past July????

  • Antonio Valencia
  • Great to finally see the Aviationist catching on to this incident, but there is one blaring technical error: the Chinese aircraft involved was not a Su-27 but rather a J-11B, and they are different, despite the superficial commonalities of the two.

    The J-11B was indeed developed on the basis of the ubiquitous Flanker fuselage design, with some more RAM and composites added, but the subsystems, weapons, electronics, and anything else that is an arbiter of an aircraft’s capabilities, are uniquely different. That’s pretty evident in the utilization of a domestic PD radar, engines, FBW controls, MAWS, cockpit, and others, on the aircraft. This is also why the J-11B was seen sporting only Chinese weaponry.

    One easy way to distinguish the two would be to look at the radome, weapons carried, engine petals, and IRST. The J-11B always have a black solid radome, and it is the only aircraft of its lineage to do so. The J-11B also sports a center-lined IRST ball, and the shorter WS-10 nozzles. The aircraft, do note, also carry the Chinese PL-12 missile; J-11Bs and Su-27s cannot interchange their respective Chinese and Russian weaponry due to data linking systems.

    • tim robinson

      Nice write up

      • twistedneck

        Obviously coming from someone who knows first hand or has friends who do..

        • tim robinson

          Thanks, 13 yrs RNZAF with full E3B, and A6 accreditation

          Glad you approve

  • big john ok

    Remember VQ-1 Hainan Island

  • Godfrey Kimega

    I wonder how the Americans would react if the Chinese conducted a, “routine surveillance mission in international airspace” close to the US mainland.

    • tim robinson

      They can’t, non arguement.. Same way Russia has been doing it since the 60s?

    • Flyn_Bryan

      Happens all the time. Just ask the Russians. Fortunately, the US F15s do not perform barrel roll maneuvers around their Tu-95s. That would be provocative and irresponsible.

      • tim robinson

        Not so, barrel rolls on bears were standard practise on USN vessels, especially F8s which never had a downward facing camera. Pilot would form up to the rear & low, increase power to just above the bear then slow barrel roll over to get a complete picture.

        Link provided gives you an idea when siht goes wrong

        • Flyn_Bryan

          Maybe.. but I can’t see an F8 having to get as close as 50 feet to snap a picture. In this case, maybe the Chinese pilot misjudged his distance? I would love to know if the US crew got any video of the incident.

  • CheetahFang258

    Obama needs to go up the China and say “Lay off our damn aircraft or we’ll scrap your plastic imitations”

    • Manthinks

      Obama’s predecessor did just that and he ended up sending 2 “sorry” Letters to the Chinese, had his US Navy EP-3E dismantled, packed up in boxes and flown back aboard a hired Russian An-124-100 a day before Independence Day..

      Since the 2001 incident, the term “Chinese takeaway” had taken on a totally new meaning on 4th of July. :)

      • tim robinson

        Love it!!

  • R.Lopaka

    What’s the stall speed of the SU-27? How long can it hold the Cobra? Stall speed of P-8 is approx 125-130 KIAS depending on weight. How slow can average PLAAF pilot fly?

  • Let’s hope you’ll be on scene in the next interception so you can defuse the tension with your humor. :)

    • tim robinson

      Personally I can only imagine both pilots pissing themselves laughing at hearing Danger Zone broadcast on airborne LRAD… Relax

  • Ben Sokolow

    Do a Barrel Roll