Audio and Video of the U.S. P-8A aircraft defying China’s Navy warnings to leave airspace over disputed islands

A P-8A Poseidon from Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 captures surveillance footage of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) conducting land reclamation operations in the South China Sea.

On May 20, a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft belonging to Patrol Squadron (VP) 45 conducted a routing surveillance flight over the South China Sea, where has started building an airstrip on the disputed Spratly Islands in the waters claimed by the Philippines.

During the flight, the crew of the P-8A documented several warnings, issued by China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), most probably on the International Emergency (“Guard”) frequency 121.5 MHz, to leave the area as the U.S. military plane was approaching their military alert zone.

Interestingly, the U.S. aircraft replies to the Chinese Navy operators urging it to leave their area “quickly” as follows:

“Station calling U.S. military plane, please identify yourself”.

Then, after receiving confirmation that it was a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) operator, the answer is always the same: “I’m a U.S. military aircraft conducting lawful military activities outside national airspace; I’m operating with due regard as required under International Law.”

The audio seems to be disturbed by some kind of jamming.

Anyway, according to the U.S. Navy, the P-8 mission documented the continued expansion of reefs which have been turned into man-made islands with airport infrastructure in the South China Sea.


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a 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 five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. We know from the USS Fortworth’s encounter with a Type 54A Frigate five days before this overflight that that a least one of these Frigates is already in the area.

    Type 54A’s have the HQ-16 SAM which is a improved Chinese clone of the Buk SAM system which is quite a dangerous missile to US aircraft.

    Long story short the missiles are already there aboard the Chinese Naval vessels which makes these overflights pretty damn gutsy!

    • With that in mind, I do wander at the wisdom of these flights. I understand that these are in international waters, and we don’t want to appear passive (at least not as passive as we have been). It is always a fine between standing ground and escalation; and what you can legally do vs what is smart to do

  2. Don’t worry, the US has already capitulated.

    “Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said the United States does not
    recognize China’s sovereignty claims over the new islands. He added that
    flights and Navy ships will continue their routine patrols, but will
    maintain a distance of at least 12 miles from the island.”

    We’re already honoring their land grab. Disgusting.

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