Chinese navy ship pointed laser at Australian defence aircraft

A Chinese navy ship used a laser on an Australian defence aircraft in a move condemned as ‘unsafe’ by the Australian Defence Force.

A Chinese navy ship has used a laser on an Australian defence aircraft in flight, in what has been described as a “serious safety incident” that vindicates concern about the increased military presence close to Australia.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) said the Australian aircraft detected the laser coming from a Chinese vessel on Thursday while it was flying along Australia’s northern approaches.

“Acts like this have the potential to endanger lives,” the ADF said in a statement on Saturday night.

The Chinese vessel, in company with another People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLA-N) ship, was sailing east through the Arafura Sea, located between northern Australia and Western New Guinea, at the time of the incident.

The Luyang-class guided missile destroyer, which is armed with surface-to-air missiles, was travelling with a Yuzhao-class amphibious transport dock.

The ADF said its P-8A Poseidon detected a laser illuminating the aircraft while in flight over Australia’s northern approaches on February 17.

“The laser was detected as emanating from a People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLA-N) vessel,” the ADF said in a statement.

“Illumination of the aircraft by the Chinese vessel is a serious safety incident.”

The head of Australian National University’s National Security College, Professor Rory Medcalf said that the incident raised “ important international security questions and vindicates concern about increasing presence of Chinese military close to Australia”.

“Would Chinese forces have reacted with such restraint if a foreign navy had committed this dangerous act in China’s maritime approaches?” he tweeted.

ABC defence correspondent Andrew Greene noted in a tweet that ADF assets had been increasingly targeted like this in recent years, but “this incident occurred very close to the Australian coast (inside EEZ) and involved a military vessel and military grade laser which had capability to take out aircraft sensors”.

The ADF condemned the actions as “unprofessional and unsafe” military conduct.

“These actions could have endangered the safety and lives of the ADF personnel,” it said.

“Such actions are not in keeping with the standards we expect of professional militaries.

“We strongly condemn unprofessional and unsafe military conduct.”

The vessel and the other PLA-N ship it was travelling in company with have since transited through the Torres Strait and are in the Coral Sea, the ADF said.

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