Australia says a Chinese warship ‘lit up’ one of its planes with a laser

By Angus Watson and Brad Lendon, CNN

A Chinese warship used a laser to ‘illuminate’ an Australian Air Force jet in what Canberra called a ‘serious security incident’ in a statement on Saturday.

“Acts like this have the potential to put lives at risk,” the Australian Defense Force statement said, adding that it strongly condemns “unprofessional and dangerous military conduct.”

Pilots targeted by laser attacks have reported disorienting flashes, pain, spasms and blotches in their vision and even temporary blindness.

“During critical phases of flight, when the pilot does not have sufficient time to recover, the consequences of laser exposure can be tragic,” says a document from the United States Federal Aviation Administration.

The incident occurred on Tuesday, the statement said, when an Australian P-8A reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft flew over the Arafura Sea, the body of water between the Territory from the Australian North and the island of New Guinea to the North.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLAN) Navy ship that pointed the laser at the Australian plane was one of two PLAN warships sailing east through the Arafura Sea at the time, the Australian military said.

He posted photos of two Chinese ships with the statement, which according to their hull numbers are the guided missile destroyer Hefei and the amphibious transport dock Jinggang Shan.

Australia did not specify which of the two vessels pointed the laser at the Australian aircraft.

After the incident, the Chinese ships passed through the Torres Strait in the Coral Sea, according to the statement.

China had no immediate comment on the Australian allegations.

The incident is not the first report of Chinese ships aiming lasers at Australian aircraft.

In May 2019, Australian pilots said they were targeted several times by commercial lasers during missions over the South China Sea.

And in a June 2018 report, US military officials told CNN there were at least 20 suspicious Chinese laser incidents in the Eastern Pacific from September 2017 to June 2018.

Military tensions between China and Australia rose and peaked in November when Canberra announced it was entering into a pact with the US and UK to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

On the day the sub-deal was announced, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijan said Australia should “seriously consider considering China as either a partner or a threat”.

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