The Australian Department of Defense said a Chinese navy ship fired a laser at one of its surveillance planes, putting the lives of the crew at risk.
BRISBANE, Australia – The Australian Department of Defense says a Chinese navy ship fired a laser at one of its surveillance planes, putting the lives of the crew at risk.
The incident occurred on Thursday when the P-8A Poseidon aircraft detected a laser shining on the aircraft as it flew over Australia’s northern approaches, the department said.
Such episodes are not uncommon, as the United States and its allies accuse China of asserting its military power and have taken steps to challenge Beijing’s growing influence in the Western Pacific and elsewhere.
The department said in a statement on Saturday that the laser came from a People’s Liberation Army Navy ship. He was accompanying another Chinese ship transiting the Torres Strait. Both vessels were now in the Coral Sea east of Australia, he added.
“The illumination of the plane by the Chinese ship is a serious security incident,” the defense ministry said. “We strongly condemn unprofessional and dangerous military behavior. These actions could have endangered the safety and lives of ADF personnel.
Lasers pose a serious problem because when directed at aircraft, they can injure pilots or temporarily blind them, which can pose safety risks, especially during takeoff and landing.
Two years ago, the United States also accused the Chinese Navy of firing a laser at one of its Poseidon planes over the Pacific. China denied it, saying the plane flew low over its warship despite repeated warnings.
In 2019, Australian Navy helicopter pilots said they were hit by lasers during exercises in the South China Sea, forcing them to land as a precaution. In 2018, the United States filed a formal complaint with the Chinese government over the use of high-grade lasers near the Djibouti military base that were aimed at aircraft and caused minor injuries to two American pilots.
Tensions have escalated particularly in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety, while the United States and its allies insist on freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters.