US military plane intercepted by Chinese jets, US says

WASHINGTON, May 19 (Reuters) - Two Chinese SU-30 aircraft carried out what the U.S. military described as an "unprofessional" intercept of a U.S. aircraft designed to detect radiation while it was flying in international airspace over the East China Sea.

"The issue is being addressed with China through appropriate diplomatic and military channels," said Air Force spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Lori Hodge.

Hodge said the U.S. characterization of the incident was based on initial reports from the U.S. aircrew aboard the WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft "due to the maneuvers by the Chinese pilot, as well as the speeds and proximity of both aircraft."

RELATED: A look at all the planes in the US Air Force

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All the planes in the US Air Force (BI)
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All the planes in the US Air Force (BI)

A-10 Thunderbolt II

Mission: The A-10 is specifically designed to carry out close-air support at low altitude and low speed. The A-10 is built to be highly survivable and can takeoff and land in locations near to the front lines.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by Incirlik Air Base/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

AC-130

Variants: AC-130U "Spooky" and AC-130W Stinger II 

Mission: Both AC-130 variants are highly modified versions of the original C-130 airframe. The variants are both tasked with close-air-support missions, convoy escort, and point air defense.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by US Air Force/Getty Images)

B-1B Lancer

Mission: The B-1B Lancer is the Air Force's bomber backbone. It has the largest payload capacity of any aircraft in the fleet, is multi-mission capable, and can carry and deliver huge quantities of both precision and nonprecision weaponry. 

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

B-2 Spirit

Mission: The B-2 Spirit is a stealth bomber capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear munitions.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by Gary Ell/US Air Force/Getty Images)

B-52 Stratofortress

Mission: The B-52 is a long-range heavy bomber that is able to participate in and complete a wide range of mission sets. During conflicts, the B-52 can provide close air support, strategic attacks, surveillance, and counter-air and maritime operations.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo credit RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)

C-130 Hercules

Mission: The C-130 Hercules is primarily used for airlift missions and transporting equipment and troops. It can land on rough dirt strips, move oversized loads, and the airframe can be modified into a range of aircraft such as the AC-130U and the WC-130 Hercules.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

C-17 Globemaster III

Mission: The C-17 is the newest cargo aircraft to enter the Air Force's airlift fleet. The plane is capable of strategic delivery of cargo and people, can complete airdrop missions, and can move patients during aeromedical evacuations.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

C-20

Variants: C-20B, C-20H

Mission: The C-20 is a modified Gulfstream civilian aircraft. The planes are used to transport high-ranking officials from the government and Department of Defense.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo via US Air Force)

C-21

Mission: The C-21 is used to airlift cargo and passengers. It can also be used for aeromedical evacuations. 

Source: US Air Force

(Photo via US Air Force)

C-32

MissionThe C-32 is used to transport the vice president primarily, but also the first lady, and cabinet and Congress members. The plane is typically referred to as "Air Force Two."

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)

C-37A

Mission: The aircraft is used to transport government officials and members of the Department of Defense.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo via US Air Force)

C-40B/C

Mission: The C-40B/C is a transportation aircraft that carries combatant commanders, as well as members of the cabinet and Congress.

Source: US Air Force

C-5 Galaxy

Variants: C-5A/B/C Galaxy, C-5M Super Galaxy

Mission: The C-5 is the largest airlifter in the US Air Force fleet. The craft can carry a combat-ready military unit anywhere in the world, as well as deliver the necessary supplies to support the unit.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo credit BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

CV-22 Osprey

Mission: A tilt-rotor aircraft, the Osprey is intended to provide infiltration and exfiltration abilities for special-operations forces, as well as conducting resupply missions.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by Dennis Taylor/USAF/Getty Images)

E-3 Sentry (AWACS)

Mission: The E-3 is an airborne warning and control system (AWACS) plane. This means that the plane provides situational intelligence of an area and sends that back to the Joint Air Operations Center.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo credit PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images)

E-9A

Mission: The E-9A provides surveillance over the Gulf of Mexico to ensure that the area is clear for the US military to conduct weapons testing in the region.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo via USAF/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

EC-130-E

Variants: EC-130H Compass Call, EC-130J Commando Solo

Mission: Both variants of the EC-130 are heavily modified versions of the C-130 airframe. The EC-130H makes use of tactical weapon systems to disrupt enemy command, control, and communications. 

The EC-130J meanwhile is used to broadcast communications including FM radio, television programming, and communication brands.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by David Hawkins/U.S. Air Force/Getty Images)

F-15

Variants: F-15 Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle

Mission: The F-15 is a highly maneuverable fighter intended to capture air supremacy over the battlefield. The F-15E is an upgraded F-15 that is also capable of carrying out air-to-ground missions.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)

F16 Fighting Falcon

Mission: The F-16 is a multi-role aircraft that can carry out both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat. It is compact and highly maneuverable.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

F-22 Raptor 

Mission: The F-22 is the Air Force's most recently deployed new fighter aircraft. The only combat ready fifth-generation fighter, the F-22 combines stealth, maneuverability, the ability to supercruise, and advanced avionics to be able to seize aerial dominance and carry out strikes against ground targets.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

HC-130

Variants: HC-130J Combat King II, HC-130P/N King

Mission: The HC-130 and its variants are personnel recovery platforms. The aircraft can be used for disaster response and evacuations. The aircraft are able to land and operate in a range of airfields. 

Source: US Air Force

(Photo via US Air Force)

HH-60G Pave Hawk

Mission: The HH-60G is used to personnel-recovery operations from hostile territory. The helicopter is also used in search and rescue operations, disaster response, and humanitarian assistance in civil situations.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by Lance Cheung/US Air Force via Getty Images)

KC-10 Extender

Mission: A tanker and cargo aircraft, the KC-10's primary mission is aerial refueling. It can also carry support personnel, equipment, and carry out aeromedical evacuations.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by Lance Cheung/U.S. Air Force via Gety Images)

KC-135E Stratotanker

Mission: The Stratotanker provides the backbone of the US Air Force's aerial-refueling operations. It provides support to the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and allied nations. The KC-135 can also be used for aeromedical evacuations.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by USAF)

MC-12W

Mission: The MC-12W is an intelligence-collecting aircraft that is meant to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo via USAF/Senior Airman Tiffany Trojca)

MC-130

 

Variants: MC-130H Combat Talon II, MC-130J Commando II

Mission: The MC-130 aircraft is intended to provide support, resupply, refueling, infiltration, and exfiltration for special-operations forces. The aircraft also carry out secondary psychological operations, such as dropping leaflets over enemy territory.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by Anna Hayman/U.S. Air Force/Getty Images)

OC-135B Open Skies

Mission: The OC-135B is the US's contribution to the Open Skies Treaty. The plane flies unarmed flights over nations that have signed to the treaty to ensure that signatories are honoring their pledges.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo via US Air Force)

RC-135

Variants: RC-135S Cobra Ball, RC-135U Combat Sent, RC-135V/W Rivet Joint

Missions: The RC-135 aircraft variants are all intelligence-collecting aircraft. The Cobra Ball collects information on ballistic targets, which it reports to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Rivet Joint provides real-time on-scene intelligence collection, and the Combat Sent relays electronic-reconnaissance information to the president, secretary of defense, and Department of Defense leaders.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

T-1A Jayhawk

Mission: The T-1A Jayhawk is used to provide specialized training to future airlift or tanker aircraft pilots.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo via USAF/Lt. Col. Russell Hopkinson)

T-38 Talon

Variants: T-38A/C, AT-38B

Mission: The T-38 is an aircraft used for high-altitude supersonic training. It is used to train pilots for aircraft such as the F-15E, B-1B, the F-22, and the A-10.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo via USAF/Steve White)

T-6A Texan II

Mission: The T-6A Texan II is a primary trainer aircraft intended to teach US Air Force and Navy pilots the common basic flying skills they will need.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo via US Air Force)

U-28A

Mission: The U-28A is used to provide on-call airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance for special-operations forces.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo via US Air Force)

U-2S/TU-2S

Mission: The U-2 is a high-altitude surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft that can operate in all conditions. The plane can capture both signals intelligence and can take high detailed photographic imagery.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

UH-1N Huey

Mission: A light-lift utility helicopter, the Huey is used in a variety of support missions. The helicopter's functions include emergency security airlift, surveillance of off-base nuclear weapons, disaster response, search and rescue missions, and visitor airlift. 

Source: US Air Force

(Photo via US Air Force)

VC-25 - Air Force One

Mission: Air Force One's only mission is to provide air transport for the president.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo credit RONNY HARTMANN/AFP/Getty Images)

WC-130 Hercules

Mission: The WC-130 Hercules is a weather-reconnaissance aircraft. It is flown through storms, hurricanes, and winter storms to collect and measure information about the weather pattern.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo via via U.S. Air Force)

WC-135 Constant Phoenix

Mission: The Constant Phoenix is used to collect and measure atmospheric data in order to support the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

Source: US Air Force

(Photo via US Air Force)

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"Distances always have a bearing on how we characterize interactions," Hodge said, adding a U.S. military investigation into the intercept was underway.

She said the WC-135 was carrying out a routine mission at the time and was operating in accordance with international law.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying declined to comment on the specific incident and referred questions to the defense ministry which has yet to comment.

"For a long time U.S. ships and aircraft have been carrying out close up surveillance of China which can really easily cause misunderstandings or misjudgments or cause unexpected incidents at sea or in the air," she said. "We hope that the U.S. side can respect China's reasonable security concerns.

SEE ALSO: Reports: Trump to skip ancient Israeli site over conflict about helicopter landing

"But as for this question you have raised and are concerned about, we need to understand and check what was the actual situation on the scene," she said, without elaborating

On Feb. 8, a U.S. Navy P-3 spy plane and a Chinese military aircraft came close to each other over the South China Sea in an incident the Navy saw as unsafe but also inadvertent.

Reuters reported at the time that the aircraft came within 1,000 feet (305 meters) of each other in the vicinity of the Scarborough Shoal, between the Philippines and the Chinese mainland.

China is deeply suspicious of any U.S. military activity in the resource-rich South China Sea, parts of which are disputed by China and its smaller neighbors including the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia. (Reporting by Phil Stewart; additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Sandra Maler and Lisa Shumaker)

RELATED: Where in the world is the US military

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Where in the world is the US military
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Where in the world is the US military

U.S .troops are deployed in hotspots around the world, including places like Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

Photo Credit: Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock/US Air Force

Here's a look at some of the most significant deployments for American soldiers.

In Afghanistan, approximately 9,800 US soldiers are taking part in Resolute Support, which aims to train, advise, and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions in their fight against the Taliban and other terrorist networks.

In Iraq, about 4,000 to 6,000 soldiers are taking part in Operation Inherent Resolve, which aims to eliminate the Islamic State. Only 5,262 US troops are authorized to be in Iraq, but the actual numbers have been larger for a while as commanders leverage what they call temporary — or "nonenduring" — assignments like the one involving the 82nd Airborne in Mosul.

In Syria, 500 U.S. special forces and 250 Rangers are working in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. The Pentagon is also mulling sending an additional 1,000 US service members to the war-torn country.

In Kuwait, about 15,000 soldiers are spread among Camp Arifjan, Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, and Ali Al Salem Air Base. About 3,800 soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team also deployed there late last year.

In Poland, about 3,500 soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team are stationed as part of Atlantic Resolve, which seeks to halt Russian aggression. These soldiers will help train local forces and provide security, eventually fanning out to other countries like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary to do the same.

In Ukraine, approximately 250 Oklahoma National Guardsmen are training Ukrainian forces in support of Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine.

In Somalia, about 40 U.S. soldiers from the 101st Airborne division are assisting the central government in training its forces and fighting the terrorist group al-Shabab.

Photo Credit: Skye Gould/Business Insider

Of the U.S. Navy's seven fleets, three are deployed in or near potential hotspots around the world.

Photo Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Josue L. Escobosa/Released

The Navy's 6th Fleet is stationed around the Strait of Gibraltar; the 5th is by Saudi Arabia; and the 7th is near Japan and the Pacific Ocean.

 The USS Carney, Ross, Porter, and Donald Cook are part of the 6th Navy Fleet, which contains 17 ships and 12,638 sailors. 

The USS Bataan and George H.W. Bush are part of the 5th, which consists of 24 ships and 16,731 service members. The Bush is patroling the Persian Gulf, while the Bataan is south of Yemen. 

The USS Reagan, Bonhomme Richard, Carl Vinson, and Makin Island are part of the 7th, which consists of 53 ships and 37,935 sailors. 

Photo Credit: Skye Gould/Business Insider

U.S. Marines are deployed around the world to help counter the Islamic State. Some are also deployed in efforts to contain Russia and to provide security.

Photo Credit: U.S. Marine Corps

Here are some of the most important Marine deployments.

In Syria, approximately 400 Marines are taking part in Operation Inherent Resolve.

In Afghanistan, 300 Marines are taking part in Resolute Support.

In South Sudan, approximately 40 U.S. Marines are providing security to the U.S. Embassy. 

In Norway, about 300 Marines are stationed as part of a bilateral agreement between Oslo and Washington to undergo winter training and reinforce Norway's border with Russia.

Photo Credit: Skye Gould/Business Insider

While the U.S. Air Force is deployed in bases worldwide, the service most recently sent two F-35s each to Bulgaria and Estonia.

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force/Osakabe Yasuo

This is where the Air Force has a significant presence.

Two F-35s were recently deployed to Bulgaria for training and "reassuring allies and partners of U.S. dedication to the enduring peace and stability of the region." Another two F-35s recently deployed to Europe and will visit multiple NATO countries in support of European Reassurance Initiative.

Four hundred airmen from the 5th Bomb Wing recently deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Twelve F-16 fighters are in South Korea to "help maintain a deterrent against threats to regional security and stability." Multiple B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers are also stationed there.

Photo Credit: Skye Gould/Business Insider

Here's a view from across the military. In total, about 69,300 troops are assigned to Pacific Command, with 41,990 in Central Command, 34,520 in European Command, and 9,150 assigned to Africa Command.

Though we've shown you some of the most significant deployments around the world, it's worth noting that these graphics are not all-inclusive. We've kept off most traditional bases and training exercises, for example.

Photo Credit: Skye Gould/Business Insider

Here is a chart of the significant U.S. military deployments worldwide.

There are some other rather significant troops deployed to support in other service members in hotspots.

Thousands of U.S. service members, mostly airmen, are deployed in Qatar, where the U.S. Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base is located. 

In Jordan, 1,500 soldiers, a squadron of F-16s, a Patriot missile battery, and M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems have been deployed because of the war in Syria. 

About 7,000 US military personnel, mostly sailors, are based in Bahrain, which is home to the 5th Navy Fleet. A large number of US airmen also operate out of the Shaykh Isa Air Base, where F-16s, F/A-18s, and P-3 surveillance aircraft are stationed.

Elements of the U.S. 379th Air Expeditionary Wing are based in Eskan Village Air Base in Saudi Arabia, where the 5th Navy Fleet also patrols. 

Photo Credit: Skye Gould/Business Insider

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