A Chinese navy ship shot a laser at one of its surveillance planes, endangering the crew’s lives, the Australian Defense Department said on Saturday.
According to the department, the incident occurred on Thursday when the P-8A Poseidon jet detected a laser illuminating the aircraft while flying over Australia’s northern approaches.
As the US and its allies accuse China of exerting its military might, the US and its allies have taken moves to counter Beijing’s expanding power in the western Pacific and elsewhere.
The laser was fired from a People’s Liberation Army Navy vessel, according to the department.
It was travelling through the Torres Strait with another Chinese ship. It was reported that both ships were currently in the Coral Sea, east of Australia.
“The Chinese vessel’s illumination of the aircraft is a major safety incident,” the Defense Department warned.
“We vehemently oppose unprofessional and dangerous military conduct. The ADF personnel’s safety and life could have been jeopardised as a result of these activities.”
Lasers are a severe hazard because, when directed at aircraft, they can harm or temporarily blind pilots, posing a safety risk, especially during takeoff and landing.
The US also accused China of firing a laser at one of its Poseidon planes over the Pacific two years ago. China denied it, claiming that despite repeated warnings, the plane circled at low altitude over its battleship.
During a training exercise in the South China Sea in 2019, Australian naval helicopter pilots were blasted by lasers, causing them to land as a precaution.
In 2018, the US filed a formal complaint with the Chinese government about the deployment of high-grade lasers directed towards aircraft near a military installation in Djibouti, which resulted in minor injuries to two American pilots.
Tensions have risen in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims virtually entirely while the United States and its allies insist on freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters.