A P-8A Poseidon with Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida flies behind a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 121st Air Refueling Wing, Ohio in the sky above southeastern United States July 26, 2018.
Air National Guard/Airman 1st Class Tiffany Emery
Chinese forces deployed to the hotly contested South China Sea ordered a U.S. Navy reconnaissance aircraft to "leave immediately" six times Friday, but the pilot stayed the course, refusing to back down.
A U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane flew past China's garrisons in the Spratly Islands, giving CNN reporters aboard the aircraft a view of Chinese militarization in the region.
Flying over Chinese strongholds on Mischief Reef, Johnson Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, and Subi Reef, CNN spotted "large radar installations, power plants, and runways sturdy enough to carry large military aircraft." At one outpost, onboard sensors detected 86 vessels, including Chinese Coast Guard ships, which China has been known to use to strong-arm countries with competing claims in the South China Sea.
Lt. Lauren Callen, who led the U.S. Navy crew, said it was "surprising to see airports in the middle of the ocean."
The Chinese stationed in the area were not exactly kind hosts to the uninvited guests.
Warning the aircraft that it was in Chinese territory — an argument an international arbitration tribunal ruled against two years ago — the Chinese military ordered the U.S. Navy plane to "leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding."
Six warnings were issued, according to CNN, and the U.S. Navy responded the same every time.
"I am a sovereign immune U.S. naval aircraft conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state," the crew replied, adding, "In exercising these rights guaranteed by international law, I am operating with due regard for the rights and duties of all states."
Friday's incident comes on the heels of a report by the Philippine government revealing that China has been increasingly threatening foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea.
"Leave immediately," Chinese forces in the Spratlys warned a Philippine military aircraft earlier this year, according to the Associated Press. "I am warning you again, leave immediately or you will pay the possible consequences," the voice said over the radio.
The U.S. Navy has noticed an increase in such queries as well.
"Our ships and aircraft have observed an increase in radio queries that appear to originate from new land-based facilities in the South China Sea," Cmdr. Clay Doss, a representative for the U.S. 7th Fleet, told the AP, adding, "These communications do not affect our operations."
Of greater concern for the U.S. military are recent Chinese deployments of military equipment and weapons systems, such as jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles. While the U.S. has accused China of "intimidation and coercion" in the disputed waterway, Beijing argues it is the U.S., not China, that is causing trouble in the region.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to comment on Friday's exchange between the Chinese military and the U.S. Navy.
Two U.S. troops in Afghanistan have been killed in non-combat incidents and a sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln was declared dead after falling overboard while the ship was supporting operations in Afghanistan.
At least two defense contractors have also been killed in Afghanistan. One was a Navy veteran and the other had served in the Army.
U.S. Air Force officer passes in front of a MQ-9 Reaper drone, one of a squadron that has arrived to step up the fight against the Taliban, at the Kandahar air base, Afghanistan January 23, 2018. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. military MQ-9 drone was shot down in Yemen's Dhamar governate, southeast of the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa, two U.S. officials told Reuters on Wednesday.
A Houthi military spokesman had earlier said that air defenses had brought down a U.S. drone.
The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the drone was shot down late on Tuesday.