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PLA Fighter Jets Intercept RCAF Cyclone Helicopter


Image: CH-148 Cyclone helicopter for takeoff to conduct deck evaluations on 4 April 2022 Credit: Pte Connor Bennett

On Sunday October 29, 2023, while deployed in support of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, HMCS Ottawa’s embarked CH-148 Cyclone helicopter was conducting routine exercises in the South China Sea, when it was intercepted by two People’s Liberation Army J-11 fighter jets. Though the initial encounter was safe, two subsequent encounters were deemed unsafe.

With successive passes, one jet eventually conducted a pass over the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter with little separation, causing the helicopter to experience turbulence and take appropriate actions to remain safe.

Later the same day, during a second sortie, the same helicopter was once again intercepted by another J-11 fighter aircraft, which launched flares directly in front of the helicopter. The helicopter pilot had to manoeuvre to avoid the flares and reduce the risk of ingesting a flare into the helicopter’s rotor and intakes. This encounter was also deemed unsafe.

All interactions took place in international airspace, well outside any claimed territorial seas and associated airspace. All members of the air detachment and crew on HMCS Ottawa are safe and well, and the helicopter was not damaged. HMCS Ottawa and the embarked helicopter are continuing their mission.

The Canadian Armed Forces considers an intercepting aircraft’s actions to be unsafe when those actions place our aircraft in danger or cause the pilot to manoeuvre to avoid collision. The Canadian aircraft was subject to multiple close-proximity manoeuvres by a People’s Liberation Army J-11 fighter jet that put the safety of all personnel involved at unnecessary risk.

Canadian Armed Forces members undergo extensive training before these missions and are well-prepared to deal with events that may occur.

Canada expects that any intercepts of our aircraft be conducted in a safe and professional manner.  

The Canadian Armed Forces will continue to contribute to a more secure and stable Indo-Pacific, including through the deployment of Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft.

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