Chinese fighter jets ‘orbit’ Philippine aircraft during joint patrol with Australia

Armed Forces of the Philippines

Fighter jets from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were seen shadowing and orbiting Philippine aircraft participating in joint Philippine-Australia drills in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) on November 26, 2023, according to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Romeo Brawner, Jr.

In an interview with Philippine media, Brawner said that two Chinese jets encircled the Philippine Air Force’s A-29B Super Tucano – a light attack, combat and reconnaissance aircraft – for approximately 15 minutes. 

“There were two Chinese jet fighters that circled our plane. They just circled,” Brawner said. 

He also added that the Chinese jets only shadowed the Philippine aircraft, and steered clear of the Australian ones.

Philippine media outlet ABS-CBN released a video of the incident and posted it to X (formerly known as Twitter). 

However, the angle and the long-view distance makes it almost impossible to determine what type of PLA aircraft circled the Philippine planes.

The incident comes shortly after tensions between China and the Philippines arose when the Philippine government lodged a diplomatic protest with China in response to maneuvers by Chinese vessels on October 22, 2023 that led to collisions with Philippine ships on a resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal (international name: Second Thomas Shoal).

Brawner said that despite the interference, the Armed Forces of the Philippines was able to carry out and finish its air and maritime patrol mission with the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

Image: Armed Forces of the Philippines

The three-day activity, which featured exercises in the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone from November 25-27, 2023, saw participation from Philippine Navy vessels BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Davao Del Sur; Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Toowoomba; Philippine Air Force’s A29B Super Tucano and N-22 Nomad, Philippine Navy’s BNI2A aircraft; and Royal Australian Air Force P-8A maritime surveillance aircraft.

The Maritime Cooperative Activity between the Philippines and Australia demonstrated both countries’ shared commitment to improve maritime interoperability, foster camaraderie among the participants and to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international law for a peaceful and secure Indo-Pacific.

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