A Canadian military CH-148 Cyclone helicopter was intercepted three times by Chinese fighters in the South China Sea on November 5, 2023.
Two J-11 fighters operated by China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) intercepted the Canadian helicopter three times. The helicopter was operating from the Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate, HMCS Ottawa.
The maneuvers, “deemed very dangerous” by Canadian National Defense Minister Bill Blair, occurred while the helicopter was engaged in routine exercises as part of Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy meant to maintain freedom of navigation in international waters off the coast of China.
According to the Canadian ministry’s report, one of the Chinese fighters executed a close proximity maneuver over the Canadian helicopter during the first encounter, causing wake turbulence and forcing the helicopter to take evasive measures to ensure its safety. Later in the day, another fighter fired flares directly in front of the helicopter, posing a risk to the helicopter’s rotor and air intakes.
“All interactions took place in international airspace, well away from claimed territorial seas and related airspace,” the Canadian Department of National Defense argued. “The Canadian Armed Forces consider it unsafe to intercept an aircraft’s maneuvers when it puts our aircraft in danger or forces the pilot to maneuver in order to avoid a collision.”
This is the second such aerial interception of a Canadian aircraft by Chinese jets in less than three weeks. On October 16, 2023, a Canadian CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft was intercepted by several Chinese fighters. The interaction was filmed by journalists onboard the Canadian flight.