Pilots in the Royal Australian Air Force are being offered counseling after they encounter Chinese military jets, according to air force chiefs.
The encounters have taken place during Operation Gateway, an Australian effort to carry out surveillance patrols over the North Indian Ocean and South China Sea, Voice of America reported.
RAAF Air Vice Marshal Darren Goldie told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that crews are debriefed after Chinese encounters and told about the availability of mental health counseling services.
“The mental health of our aviators and people that are coming in contact with things like intercepts or challenges on the radio — it is important that when we bring them back, we talk to them about the experience, and we talk to them about what services are available should they be troubled by the experiences they saw,” Goldie said.
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RAAF Chief Rob Chipman told the ABC that “the vast majority of interactions we have with all nations are professional — safe and professional.”
But, he added, “There has been a trend recently where we’ve seen a more aggressive posture set. When that occurs then we raise those issues, raise those concerns, through diplomatic channels.”
In June 2022, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese denounced an incident in which a Chinese jet acted with aggression toward an Australian Air Force plane, forcing it into a dangerous maneuver, as reported by The Guardian.
Defense Minister Richard Marles detailed the specifics of the incident during a press conference at the time.
“What occurred was that the J-16 aircraft flew very close to the side of the P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft,” Marles said. “In flying close to the side, it released flares, the J-16 then accelerated and cut across the nose of the P-8, settling in front of the P-8 at very close distance.
“At that moment, it then released a bundle of chaff which contains small pieces of aluminum, some of which were ingested into the engine of the P-8 aircraft. Quite obviously, this is very dangerous.”
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The incident reportedly occurred over international waters.
In addition to Australia, other nations have encountered aggressive actions from Chinese military pilots.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned Chinese actions toward Canadian Forces, also in June 2022, as reported by CBC. The pilots were participating in a U.N. mission over the Pacific Ocean related to enforcing sanctions against North Korea when Chinese fighter jets took “irresponsible and provocative” actions, Trudeau said.