Chinese fighter drops flares in front of Australian MH-60R helicopter

On May 4, 2024 a People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) fighter jet dropped flares in front of a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) MH-60R over the Yellow Sea. According to a May 6 Australian government news release the action was “unsafe and unprofessional.”

The news release stated;

‘The Australian Government has expressed its concerns to the Chinese Government following an unsafe and unprofessional interaction with a People’s Liberation Army – Air Force (PLA-AF) fighter aircraft.

‘On 4 May 2024, HMAS Hobart was in international waters in the Yellow Sea undertaking routine activities as part of Operation Argos, Australia’s contribution to the international effort to enforce United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea.

‘During these activities, a Royal Australian Navy MH-60R helicopter launched from HMAS Hobart was intercepted by a PLA-AF fighter aircraft.

PLAAF plane dropped flares about 300 meters in front of the MH-60R helicopter

‘The PLA-AF aircraft released flares across the flight path of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) helicopter. 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.

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

‘Defence has, for decades, undertaken maritime surveillance activities in the region and does so in accordance with international law, exercising the right to freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace.’

Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles told Australian news channel 9 News that the PLAAF plane dropped flares about 300 meters in front of the MH-60R helicopter, while it was at a height of 60 meters higher than the MH-60R, requiring the helicopter to take evasive action to not be hit by the flares.

Canadian aircraft and Australian warships harassed by the Chinese military

According to USNI News, several countries have had ships and aircraft conducting patrols, monitoring and carrying out surveillance of North Korea violations of UN sanctions via ship to ship transfer of goods since 2018. Beijing says that such missions are covers for reconnaissance and monitoring missions on China. For this reason in recent years, Canadian aircraft and Australian warships have faced harassment by the Chinese military: in October 2023 a Chinese fighter jet dropped flares in front of a Royal Canadian Navy helicopter.

Last November while RAN frigate HMAS Toowoomba (FFH156) had divers in the waters of the East China Sea during an Operation Argos patrol, People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) destroyer CNS Ningbo (139) used its sonar in the vicinity of the Australian ship. Even though because of the PLAN ship’s action divers sustained injuries, the Chinese military denied carrying out such an action and accused Australia of making “reckless accusations.”

Chinese fighter drops flares 300 meters in front of Australian MH-60R helicopter over the Yellow Sea
Royal Australian Navy MH-60R helicopter

Photo credit: Commonwealth of Australia and US DoD