The Navy said Thursday that a Chinese warship fired a military grade laser at a U.S. surveillance aircraft flying over the Pacific Ocean last week, calling the action “unsafe and unprofessional.”
The Navy P-8A surveillance aircraft was flying above international waters about 380 miles west of Guam on Feb. 17 when the laser was fired from a Chinese navy destroyer, according to a statement from U.S. Pacific Fleet.
The service said such acts “violate the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), a multilateral agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to reduce the chance of an incident at sea.”
The Chinese destroyer’s actions were also inconsistent with a Memorandum of Understanding between the Defense Department and the People’s Republic of China Ministry of National Defense over rules of behavior for safety of air and maritime encounters.
The weapons-grade laser — which could potentially cause serious harm to service members as well as ship and aircraft systems — was not visible to the naked eye and was captured by a sensor onboard the U.S. aircraft.
The Pentagon has recorded more than 20 incidents since 2017 where lasers — believed to be Chinese — have been used to target U.S. aircraft in the Pacific and Africa.
The laser attacks most often happen in and around the East China Sea around busy shipping routes near disputed island chains.
In April 2018 personnel at the Chinese military base in Djibouti used lasers to interfere with U.S. military aircraft, which the Pentagon called “very serious incidents.”
The Navy maintains that it will continue to routinely fly its aircraft in the Philippine Sea as it has done for years.
“U.S. Navy aircraft and ships will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”