Fears of global conflict have been kicked up a notch after a Chinese jet fired at a Canadian helicopter.
International waters in the South China Sea were the scene of a potential spark point on Sunday (October 29), after flares were fired towards the submarine-hunting chopper. The news was confirmed by Canada’s Navy, the North American nation since accusing China of acting recklessly.
It says it feared one of its helicopters, a Sikorsky Cyclone, could have crashed over the ocean as a result. It had taken off from the Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Ottawa, according to an officer aboard the ship, Major Rob Millen.
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He said: "The risk to a helicopter in that instance is the flares moving into the rotor blades or the engines so this was categorised as both unsafe and non-standard, unprofessional." It was one of two incidents that day, with another seeing the chopper come within around 100 feet of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy J-11,CNNreports.
He had been piloting the at the time and had been travelling at 3,000 feet in a straight line back towards the Ottawa, body language designed not to be threatening or aggressive. “When the intercepting aircraft was closer and closer, at a certain point it became unsafe,” he added. The jets, he said, caused turbulence. “I certainly am not as comfortable as you can be based on the fragility of the rotor system,” he noted.
The first incident occurred 34 miles off the Parcel Islands chain in the north of the South China Sea, he added. The helicopter had been out looking for a submarine that had been detected when the incident occurred according to Ottawa.
Canadian officials have since acknowledged that the move by the jet was not unusual for Chinese forces – although moving close to another aircraft is more likely with a fixed-wing jet and not a helicopter.
Speaking at a regular press briefing on Friday (November 3), Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said: “I’m not aware of the situation you mentioned. We have reiterated many times our firm position on Canadian warplanes conducting reconnaissance near China’s territorial airspace.
“We hope Canada will refrain from its inappropriate behaviour to avoid the situation from becoming more complicated.”
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