A United States E-P3 Aries military reconnaissance aircraft over the West Philippine sea intercepted by two Shenyang J-11 Chinese fighter jet on Tuesday.

The intercepts came in the area of disputed islands that China has commandeered and built up with military bases.  The US does not consider the islands legitimate Chinese territory.

Shenyang J-11 fighter plane is the Chinese version of the Russian SU-27 air superiority fighter.

Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza spokesperson of the Defense Department said, the U.S. maritime patrol reconnaissance aircraft was flying in a “routine patrol” in international airspace on May 17 when “two tactical aircraft from the People’s Republic of China” intercepted and flew in a close and very dangerous maneuver, approximately 50 feet from the U.S. aircraft, a Navy E-P3 Aries.

“Initial reports characterized the incident as unsafe,” Baldanza said in a written statement, adding, “Over the past year, DoD has seen improvements in PRC actions, flying in a safe and professional manner.”

The United States military reconnaissance aircraft – Lockheed EP-3E Aries II

According to the Defense Department they had photos of the incident, but for now, it is classified and the U.S. Pacific Command is now conducting its investigation on the matter. – Jason E.