Australian helicopter forced to take evasive action after Chinese fighter detonates flares

Seahawk helicopter

An Australian pilot was forced to take evasive action after a Chinese military jet detonated flares close to a Navy helicopter that was operating in international waters near South Korea.

The Defence Department has described the actions of the J-10 Chinese Air Force plane as “unsafe and unprofessional” following the incident which took place in the Yellow Sea over the weekend.

On Saturday a MH-60R Seahawk which had launched from HMAS Hobart was intercepted by the People’s Liberation Army-Air Force (PLA-AF) as it was taking part in a UN mission to enforce sanctions against North Korea.

“The PLA-AF aircraft released flares along the flight path of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) helicopter,” the Defence Department said in a statement on Monday night.

“This was an unsafe manoeuvre which posed a risk to the aircraft and personnel.

“While there were no injuries sustained by ADF personnel or damage caused to the MH-60R helicopter, the safety and wellbeing of our ADF personnel continues to be our utmost priority,” the department added.

“Australia expects all countries, including China, to operate their militaries in a professional and safe manner.”

A close-up of an Australian warship.

HMAS Hobart was deployed to enforce UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea when one of its helicopters was intercepted by a Chinese fighter.(Department of Defence)

Defence Minister Richard Marles says the Australian government has expressed its concerns directly with the Chinese government following the dangerous interception.

“The PLA Air Force plane dropped flares about 300 metres in front of the Seahawk helicopter and about 60 metres above it, requiring the helicopter to take evasive action in order to not be hit by those flares,” Mr Marles said in a statement.

“The consequence of being hit by the flares would have been significant.

“Importantly, the helicopter was unaffected, and all the crew are safe.”

“This is a very serious incident. It was unsafe and it is completely unacceptable.”

The incident occurred a day after the ABC revealed Australia’s Navy Chief had recently confronted his Chinese counterpart over another incident last November where divers were injured in a sonar attack also in international waters.

Shadow Defence Minister Andrew Hastie also condemned what he described as the “provocative and dangerous interaction” of the Chinese Air Force with an Australian helicopter in the Yellow Sea.

“This builds on the pattern of aggressive behaviour from the People’s Liberation Army — Navy towards the Australian Defence Force (ADF) over the past few years, including the sonar attack on RAN divers in November last year.

“We are relieved that no ADF personnel were injured by this reckless, dangerous and foolish move. It does not build trust between our nations.

“The Coalition calls on Richard Marles to stand up for our ADF personnel and raise this incident directly with his Chinese counterpart,” Mr Hastie added.

Seahawk helicopter
A Seahawk helicopter operating from HMAS Hobart was intercepted by a Chinese fighter at the weekend.(Department of Defence)

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