Russian and Chinese warplanes have become one of the major concerns of US Air Force commanders, says one of the force’s top combat officers.
“Our concern is a resurgent Russia and a very, very aggressive China,” Air Force General Herbert Carlisle was quoted by the USA Today as saying on Sunday.
The commander said that both Beijing and Moscow were intent on keeping the US out of their sphere of influence – Russia in Eastern Europe and China in the South China Sea.
“Their intent is to get us not to be there, so that the influence in those international spaces is controlled only by them,” Carlisle said. “My belief is that we cannot allow that to happen.”
The comments come amid a surge in intercepts of US warplanes by Chinese and Russian fighter jets.
On May 17, two Chinese J-11 warplanes intercepted a US Navy EP-3 Aries spy plane over the South China Sea.
A US RC-135 spy aircraft was buzzed by a Russian Sukhoi Su-27 over the Baltic Sea on April 29, when the Russian fighter came within about 30 meters (100 feet) of the American plane and performed a “barrel roll” over it.
On April 21, a Soviet-era Mig-31, which is known as the world’s fastest supersonic jet, intercepted a a US Navy P-8 spy plane over Russia’s Far East.
The incident occurred days after two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 warplanes performed “simulated attack” passes over the USS Donald Cook destroyer in the Baltic Sea, prompting harsh reactions from US Secretary of State John Kerry who called the move “reckless” and “provocative,” saying the US had every right to shoot the planes down.
“Any accident that occurs while the US military is playing cat and mouse with Russian or Chinese forces could escalate into a real fight,” said Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant and military analyst at the Lexington Institute. “If it does, American victory is not assured, because US forces are operating thousands of miles from home and the other side is near its main bases.”