The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

What it looks like when a Chinese fighter jet buzzes your plane

The Pentagon on Friday blamed China for instigating a hair-raising incident in which a Chinese J-11B fighter jet buzzed a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon plane on Tuesday some 130 miles east of China’s Hainan Island. The atoll is southwest of Hong Kong in the South China Sea, and the incident occurred over international waters, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

As noted in this story by The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock, the fighter jet brought one of its wingtips within 20 feet of the Poseidon, a Boeing 737 that has been adopted to perform reconnaissance and surveillance missions and hunt for enemy submarines. But what does that look like? The Pentagon released the following photographs:

The J-11B fighter in the photo is a single-seat, two-engine jet. It’s based on the Soviet-designed Su-27, which was designed to keep up with the U.S. military’s F-15 Eagle and other Cold War-era fighters. The Kremlin began selling China the fighters after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Poseidon is a new plane in the Navy’s fleet, replacing the aging P-3 reconnaissance planes in use for decades. It first deployed to Japan last year. The one involved in this incident is based at Kadena Air Base on the Japanese island of Okinawa, military officials said.