Yesterday, Jun 1st, the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) issued a statement. The statement said the RMAF scrambled its Hawk jets after a possible intrusion into Malaysian airspace. The jets were scrambled to conduct a visual confirmation.
RMAF’s defence radar detected 16 Chinese military transport planes at 11.53am in Sarawak on May 31st. The Chinese planes were seen flying towards Malaysian national airspace. Their flight route posed a threat to the country’s sovereignty.
All the 16 airplanes were identified by the RMAF as aircraft belonging to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). The PLAAF planes were making suspicious flights on May 31st in the Kota Kinabalu Flight Information Region (FIR), Malaysia’s maritime zone air space. They proceeded to fly towards the Malaysian national airspace.
The Chinese aircraft were flying in an in-trail tactical formation 60 nautical miles from each other. This information is from the defence radar system.
“The planes flew in that formation using the same point of entry and exit. The planes then changed (direction), heading to the Beting Patinggi Ali air space which is important to the country.”
Threatening Malaysia’s sovereignty
According to the RMAF statement, the PLAAF planes flew via Singapore FIR. After that, they entered the Malaysian maritime zone air space and the Kota Kinabalu FIR. The Chinese planes were “threatening Malaysia’s sovereignty” as they approached within 60 nautical miles of Sarawak beach.
The statement said the RMAF immediately placed its Hawk 208 jets from No. 6 squadron on high alert.
Identifying the planes
Air controllers in the Kota Kinabalu FIR instructed the PLAAF planes to make contact. At the same time, the planes were under close radar surveillance. The PLAAF planes did not respond. The planes crossed Kota Kinabalu FIR and headed towards the national airspace. When this happened, the Malaysia Air Force scrambled intercepting jets to perform a visual identification at 1.33pm.
From the air interception, the RMAF identified the Chinese aircraft as Ilyushin Il-76 and Xian Y-20 aircraft. These aircraft models are mainly strategic transport aircraft. They are able to perform various missions. The RMAF considers this act as a serious incident. It threatens Malaysian national security and aviation safety. There is heavy air traffic in the airline routes in the Kota Kinabalu FIR region.
The statement added “This incident was handled by the Malaysian Air Force based on protocols by the ICAO and our national air defence strategy. The Foreign Ministry has taken note of this through the Defence Ministry.”
Routine flight training
On Tuesday, a spokesperson from the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia responded to the incident. The spokesperson said the Chinese planes were on routine flight training.
The spokesperson said “As far as I know, the reported activities are routine flight training of the Chinese Air Force and do not target any country”.
Chinese military aircraft are able to enjoy the freedom of overflight in the relevant airspace, according to the spokesperson.
The spokesperson said Chinese military aircraft was strictly following the relevant international law during the training. The aircraft did not enter the territorial airspace of any country.
China and Malaysia are friendly neighbors stresses the Chinese Embassy spokesperson. To jointly maintain regional peace and stability, China is willing to continue bilateral friendly consultations with Malaysia.
The Malaysian Foreign Ministry will issue a “note of diplomatic protest”. This was said by its Foreign Minister, Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Hussein. The ministry will also ask China’s ambassador in Malaysia to explain the “breach of the Malaysian airspace and sovereignty”.
Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin also issued a statement on the incident. It said “Malaysia’s stand is clear – having friendly diplomatic relations with any countries does not mean that we will compromise on our national security”.
2nd June 2021 23:00
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