Pursuit of intruding aircraft by PH jets sparks social media speculations
MANILA, Philippines — Two Philippine fighter jets were dispatched on Thursday morning to intercept an unidentified aircraft flying in the country’s airspace without authority, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) reported on Saturday.
Lt. Col. Maynard Mariano, spokesperson for the PAF, said the PAF Air Defense Command spotted the aircraft within the Philippine air defense identification zone, 120 nautical miles (222 kilometers) northwest of Bolinao, Pangasinan, on Sept. 2.
Mariano said the aircraft was at 21,000 feet (6.4 km) heading northeast at 265 knots (490 km per hour) and the Air Force’s air defense control center said it was following an “unknown track of interest.”
“It was challenged through radio calls and other electronic means. The decision was made to intercept it after no response came from the said aircraft,” he told reporters.
The PAF dispatched two FA-50 jets at 9:36 a.m. to intercept the aircraft for visual identification, but about four minutes after the FA-50 took off, the aircraft changed direction toward the north and increased its speed to 400 knots (740 kph).
The intercept was terminated after nine minutes at 9:45 a.m., he said.
Mariano said on Saturday that the military still did not know the intention of the aircraft or its nationality, adding that the military would not speculate since it could have been any type of aircraft.
But even after Mariano declined to speculate, Filipino netizens soon began speculating on social media with MaxDefense Philippines, a local blog popular among Filipino military aficionados, quickly concluding “there is a huge chance that [the plane was] from China.”
MaxDefense Philippines, which is also affiliated with the website Philippine Defense Resource, is supposedly maintained by one Max Montero, who claimed on Twitter that he is based in Australia.
MaxDefense speculated that China may be testing a strategy where it would send fighter jets to fly by countries with whom it has territorial disputes.
But the PAF reported that the aircraft fled the interceptors at 400 knots, while private jets cruise at 450-550 knots and military fighters jets are known to top Mach 1, or 667 knots.
The Philippines’ South Korean-made FA-50s is capable of top speeds of Mach 1.5, or 1,000 knots.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.