Chinese Jets Intercept Australian Anti Sub Aircraft

Chinese Jets Intercept Australian Anti Sub Aircraft

Chinese fighter jets have repeatedly conducted unsafe intercepts and harassment of Australian anti-submarine warfare aircraft like the P-8 Poseidon and MH-60R helicopter. The aggressive actions suggest China may be fiercely guarding its submarine operations and capabilities.

“Concealing its submarines and discretely accessing deep waters are seen as ongoing challenges for China,” said Justin Burke, a naval expert at the National Security College. “Australia’s aircraft are being targeted because of their crucial role in submarine detection and the undersea balance of power.”

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High Risk Intercepts Escalate Tension

In one concerning incident this month, a Chinese jet released flares dangerously close to an Australian Navy MH-60R helicopter over the Yellow Sea. In 2022, chaff was fired in front of an Australian P-8 maritime patrol plane, damaging its engines.

And in 2021, Australia accused a Chinese warship of using lasers to interfere with P-8 sensor operations in the South China Sea.

Protecting China’s Survivable Second Strike

Burke assesses that while “a detectable submarine is virtually useless, a stealthy one is priceless” in deterring adversaries. Anti-submarine aircraft directly threaten this strategic capability China has long sought.

Beijing has ambitious plans to expand its submarine fleet from around 65 boats today to 80 by 2035, including new nuclear-powered attack and ballistic missile submarines for survivable second-strike deterrent patrols.

Safeguarding this undersea force is likely the motive behind the aggressive jet intercepts against Australian anti-sub crews attempting to track Chinese submarines transiting to deeper waters.

Cold War Like Harassment Returns

The incidents revive memories of Cold War cat-and-mouse games between American and Soviet naval forces. Soviet ships would intentionally “bump” U.S. vessels and aircraft to harass operations and make a diplomatic statement.

Now a return to “greyhounding” of ships and planes attempting to monitor submarine movements could escalate into a crisis if an accident or overreaction occurs. Professional airmanship and open communication are essential to avoid conflict.

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