Navy Aries, EP 3 II
Submitted by Special Correspondent Hank Gorman, CAPT, USN (Ret)
Here's a story, unverified as yet, that throws a different light on why that VQ aircraft commander decided to go to China. EP-3 Aircraft Was Spying on China's Most Advanced Destroyer TAIPEI, (c) Apr 3, 2001 -- Agence France Presse
The U.S. EP-3 aircraft was spying on China's most advanced destroyer when it collided with one of two Chinese fighters in a mid-air encounter, it was reported Tuesday. Taiwan's military radar detected the EP-3 flying in circles in the vicinity of a Russia-built Sovremenny destroyer at a low altitude and at a speed of around 250 kilometers - 150 miles - per hour, the Taipei Times quoted an intelligence source as saying. The paper said it was not the first time a U.S. surveillance plane had tried to spy on the destroyer, which it described as the most advanced fighting ship in the Chinese navy. It posed a major threat to U.S. aircraft carriers with its lethal Sunburn anti-ship missiles, the Taipei Times said. The Russian-made supersonic missile has a range of 240 kilometers. China has two Sovremenny destroyers in service and, according to reports, is negotiating to purchase two more.
The paper said the propeller-driven EP-3 had attempted to fly away after the collision, but the bid was aborted after the second fighter opened fire with its machine gun as a warning. The source, who had monitored the incident by radar and also listened to cockpit exchanges, said he believed the EP-3 was forced to land by the Chinese fighter plane at Hainan, the paper reported.
It said the two fighters, from an airbase in Guangdong Province, flew in formation side by side with the EP-3 for some time before one of the planes found it could not fly as slow as the U.S. plane powered by four turboprop engines. The Chinese fighter tried to slow down by making a turn but bumped into the U.S. aircraft and then crashed into the sea, the paper said.
Beijing said the pilot remained missing. Chinese President Jiang Zemin blamed the United States for the collision saying the responsibility fully lies with the American side, we have full evidence for that.
(c)2001 Agence France Presse
Picture of Hank - circa 1960
From Issue # 1, BREAKING NEWS