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Defence staff attend 74th PLA Air Force anniversary

Two fighter jets attached to an aviation brigade with the air force under the PLA Eastern Theater Command taxi on the runway before a tactical flight training exercise on October 18, 2023. Photo: Fu Gan.

Australian Defence staff have celebrated the 74th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in Beijing.

Australian Defence staff have celebrated the 74th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in Beijing.

Military attachés and personnel from 22 countries were invited to visit the PLA Naval Aviation University on 11 November, including staff from Australia, Denmark, Germany, France, Zimbabwe, South Korea, and Sweden.

It’s understood Australia’s assistant Defence attaché in Beijing attended the event as part of official duties performed in the ordinary course of international engagement.

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Military attachés toured academic buildings and libraries, spoke with cadets undertaking training at a physical training centre, and watched stunts performed by the Red Eagle Aerobatic Team.

The PLA Air Force made headlines earlier this year after the US Department of Defense declassified 15 recent incidents of risky operational behaviour by the People’s Liberation Army against US aircraft over the East and South China Sea.

The collection of declassified images and videos depicts dangerous manoeuvres, including close approaches at high speed, release of flares, and reckless manoeuvres taken by PLA Airforce fighter jets as they intercept US aircraft operating lawfully in international airspace.

Described by the US DOD as “unsafe, unprofessional, and other behaviours that seek to impinge upon the ability of the United States and other nations to safely conduct operations where international law allows”, the collection includes the following incidents:

The release of the declassified incidents was made ahead of an anticipated US 2023 report on military and security developments involving the People’s Republic of China (China Military Power Report).

Incidents include PLA fighter jet aircraft crossing in front of US aircraft within 100 yards, forcing US aircraft to fly through wake turbulence, interceptions conducted within 20 feet, flashing weapons at and barrel rolling near US aircraft, deploying flares in proximity to US aircraft, and conducting manoeuvres resulting in US pilots performing defensive procedures to prevent a collision.

In May 2022, a PLA Shenyang J-16 strike fighter cut across the nose of a Royal Australian Air Force P-8 Poseidon aircraft over the South China Sea, causing the Australian aircraft to ingest a bundle of chaff into its engine, an act which drew condemnation from Defence.

The P-8 returned back to base safely after undertaking a routine maritime surveillance activity in international airspace in the South China Sea region.

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