Chinese Fighter Pilot Pulls “Top Gun” Stunt With US Air Force Plane Over China Sea

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The American military presence off the coast of the Koreas continues to draw unwanted international attention. The latest episode involves a reckless stunt by a Chinese fighter pilot who was showing off for the American pilots of a radar plane above the East China Sea. The Chinese pilot flew inverted over the American plane in a move reminiscent of a scene from Top Gun.

Two Chinese Su-30 fighter jets trailed a US Air Force plane over the East China Sea Wednesday. The US Pacific Air Forces said the American plane was there looking for heightened radiation levels.

One of the SU-30s flew close to the US Air Force WC-135 and then flew inverted, directly above the WC-135. The move is reminiscent of the iconic scene in Top Gun that is so widely known that it has reached meme status.

Air Force Lt. Col. Hodge released a statement that called the move reckless. “While we are still investigating the incident, initial reports from the U.S. aircrew characterized the intercept as unprofessional. The issue is being addressed with China through appropriate diplomatic and military channels,” Hodge wrote.

One source told CNN that the jets came within 150 feet of the American plane. It may have included hand gestures like this to illustrate the infraction:

The incident has drawn attention to the presence of the WC-135 “Constant Phoenix.” The planes are part of the American attempt to chronicle North Korea’s ongoing nuclear testing.

While these provocations with China are rare, they’re characteristic of recent encounters with Russian military aircraft. The move may be evidence of the escalating tensions between the United States and Korea, though the area in which the incident occurred is also dotted with islands that are claimed by Japan and China.