‘I Was Inverted’
Chinese fighter pilot pulls 'Top Gun' stunt over American recon plane
On May 17, 2017, a Chinese Su-30 Flanker rolled over the top of a U.S. Air Force WC-135C Constant Phoenix aircraft that was flying in international air space over the East China Sea.
According to CNN, the Flanker was one of two Chinese Su-30s that intercepted the WC-135 nuclear sniffer aircraft as it was involved in a a routine mission.
The Chinese jets came within 150 feet of the WC-135. One of the Su-30s flew inverted directly above the American plane — a stunt made famous by the movie Top Gun.
“While we are still investigating the incident, initial reports from the U.S. aircrew characterized the intercept as unprofessional,” Air Force lieutenant colonel Lori Hodge said.
The WC-135 Constant Phoenix belongs to the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron from Offutt Air Force Base and flies with mission crews from Detachment 1 of the Air Force Technical Applications Center. The WC-135 collects and analyzes fallout residue in real time, helping to confirm the presence of nuclear fallout — and possibly determine the characteristics of the warhead involved.
The aircraft recently deployed to Kadena air base in Okinawa, close to the Korean peninsula, to monitor North Korea’s nuclear weapons tests.
An WC-135W Constant Phoenix at Offutt Air Force Base. U.S. Air Force photo/Josh Plueger
Not the first time
This is not the first time a Chinese or Russian fighter pilot has performed a Top Gun-like stunt or aggressively maneuvered close to a U.S. aircraft.
In February 2017, a People’s Liberation Army Air Force KJ-200 and a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion aircraft were involved in what U.S. officials called an “unsafe” close encounter over the South China Sea.
On April 29, 2016, a Russian Su-27 Flanker barrel-rolled over the top of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft operating in the Baltic Sea. The Russian jet came within 25 feet of the U.S. intelligence gathering aircraft.
Another Su-27 carried out the same dangerous maneuver on another U.S. Rivet Joint over the Baltic on April 14, 2016.
Previously, on Jan. 25, 2016, another RC-135 intelligence-gathering jet was intercepted over the Black Sea by a Russian Su-27 Flanker. The Flanker made an aggressive turn that disturbed the controllability of the RC-135.
On April 7, 2015, another Su-27 flew within 20 feet of an RC-135U over the Baltic Sea.
On April 23, 2015 an RC-135U Combat Sent performing a routine surveillance mission in international air space over the Sea of Okhotsk north of Japan, some 60 miles from Russia, was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker that crossed the route of the U.S. aircraft, putting itself within 100 feet of the Combat Sent.
In 2014, a Chinese Flanker flew a barrel roll over a U.S. Navy P-8 maritime surveillance plane 135 miles east of Hainan Island, a spot where another dangerous close encounter took place back in 2001. On April 1 of that year, a U.S. Navy EP-3E flying an electronic intelligence mission in international airspace 64 miles southeast of the island of Hainan was intercepted by two People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 fighters.
One of the J-8s, piloted by Lt. Cdr. Wang Wei, made two close passes on the EP-3 before colliding with the spy plane on the third pass. The J-8 broke into two pieces and crashed into the sea, killing Wang. The EP-3, severely damaged, performed an unauthorized landing at China’s Lingshui airfield.
The 24 crew members destroyed all — or at least most — of the sensitive items and data on board the aircraft before being detained by Chinese authorities until April 11, 2001.