The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) planes over Malaysian airspace yesterday. The “suspicious” flight of the 16 aircrafts were detected by the Air Defence Centre in Sarawak at 11.53am. The air force aircrafts were flying in tactical formation and detected flying between 23,000 feet and 27,000 feet above sea level at a speed of 290 knots entering the Malaysian Maritime Zone (ZMM).
There was no response from the planes after being told to turn back by the Malaysian Air Traffic Control, and they instead headed towards Sarawak waters. The Royal Malaysian Air Force then scrambled BAE Systems Hawk 208 fighter jets from the 6th Squadron of the Labuan Air Base to intercept the foreign planes. The Chinese planes eventually turned around and left in the same direction they entered the ZMM.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force said the People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes were identified as Ilyushin Il-76 and Xian Y-20 strategic transport aircrafts which can carry out various missions. the RMAF added that its conduct was based on the country’s laws and international rules of engagement of the International Civil Aviation Organization and National Air Defence Strategy. The foreign ministry has been informed of this incident.
When these instructions were not heeded and the PLAAF planes crossed Kota Kinabalu FIR. The Chinese jets were hovering off Malaysia’s coast in the South China Sea which has several small islands with overlapping claims by several countries including Brunei, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam. The intrusions happened in the hotly disputed South China Sea. Last year, it was reported that the Chinese coast guard and navy ships intruded into Malaysian waters 89 times between 2016 and 2019.