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Chinese Navy Fires Laser at US Aircraft

A sailor signals the pilot of a P-8A Poseidon during a preflight check, Oct. 23, 2019, in Oak Harbor, Wash. A Chinese Navy ship fired a laser at a U.S. surveillance aircraft flying over the Philippine Sea west of Guam, the Navy said, Feb. 27, 2020.

The United States Navy says that a Chinese Navy destroyer targeted a U.S. patrol aircraft with a laser last week while it was flying over the Philippine Sea, about 600 kilometers west of Guam.

The U.S. Pacific Fleet said in a statement that a Chinese ship trained the laser on the American P-8A Poseidon aircraft in an “unsafe” and “unprofessional manner,” while the P-8 was operation “in international airspace in accordance with international rules and regulations.”

The U.S. Navy said the Chinese action was in violation of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), a multilateral agreement reached in 2014, and also inconsistent with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. and China defense departments on safety of air and maritime encounters, the statement said.

The laser was captured by a sensor onboard the P-8A and was not visible to the naked eye.

“Weapons-grade lasers could potentially cause serious harm to aircrew and mariners, as well as ship and aircraft systems,” the Navy said.

The P-8A Poseidon is deployed to Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan and conducts routine operations, maritime patrol, and reconnaissance in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.