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

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


About David Cenciotti 4450 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.


    • 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..

  1. 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.

    • 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

      • 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.

          • 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

        • 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”.

          • 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.

    • 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?

    • 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”…

    • 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.

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

  3. 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 !

    • 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

      • “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.

      • 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…

      • 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.

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