Australian Navy helicopters ‘targeted by LASERS’ in the South China Sea

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The Australian Navy’s helicopters were forced to land after being hit with lasers and its ships were trailed during a passage through the hotly contested South China Sea.

The HMAS Canberra and HMAS Parramatta were on their way to a joint military exercise earlier this year when a Chinese warship followed them, according to a witness onboard.

The Tiger helicopters were conducting night flying and deck landings when they came under attack by laser pointers from passing fishing vessels.

Australian military helicopters were forced to land and its ships were discreetly trailed during their recent voyage through the hotly contested South China Sea (pictured HMAS Canberra)

Australian military helicopters were forced to land and its ships were discreetly trailed during their recent voyage through the hotly contested South China Sea (pictured HMAS Canberra)

Euan Graham, a former Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia analyst for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, was on board HMAS Canberra from Vietnam to Singapore when it happened.

He detailed his experience in The Strategist, a website run by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, an independent, non-partisan think tank based in Canberra.   

‘Was this startled fishermen reacting to the unexpected? Or was it the sort of coordinated harassment more suggestive of China’s maritime militia?,’ he wrote. 

‘It’s hard to say for sure, but similar incidents have occurred in the western Pacific.’ 

Mr Graham was one of several academics invited to observe the third iteration of Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 (IPE), which concluded last week after three months but it was not specified when the laser attack incident occurred. 

He claimed the Chinese warship followed the Australian ships for most of the transit, both on the way up and back.

Mr Graham said it was despite none of the Australian ships passed through any sensitive area or feature occupied by Chinese military.

Four ships, including HMA Ships Success, Newcastle and Parramatta, and MH-60R maritime combat helicopters, MRH-90 maritime support helicopters, and a P8-A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft took part in the exercise. More than 1200 Australian troops were engaged in the three-month long exercise at various ports in India, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam (pictured HMAS Canberra)

Four ships, including HMA Ships Success, Newcastle and Parramatta, and MH-60R maritime combat helicopters, MRH-90 maritime support helicopters, and a P8-A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft took part in the exercise. More than 1200 Australian troops were engaged in the three-month long exercise at various ports in India, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam (pictured HMAS Canberra)

It was the first time Australian military helicopters were laser targeted, but the Chinese military had been accused of similar incidents in the past.

Two American pilots suffered minor injuries last year after they were laser targeted in Djibouti, where the US and China have bases.

Beijing has denied it military’s involvement in laser attacks on any US aircraft. 

Mr Graham said the attack helicopters, which practised night flying and deck landings, were laser targeted. They were forced to land for precautionary medical reasons

Mr Graham said the attack helicopters, which practised night flying and deck landings, were laser targeted. They were forced to land for precautionary medical reasons

Chief of Joint Operations Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld said this third iteration of IPE was one of the most ambitious regional engagement activities undertaken by the ADF.

‘With four ships and various aircraft; more than 1200 personnel from across the ADF, partner nations and Defence industry; this was a landmark activity for our modern joint force,’ Air Marshal Hupfeld said in a statement. 

Four ships, including HMA Ships Success, Newcastle and Parramatta, and MH-60R maritime combat helicopters, MRH-90 maritime support helicopters, and a P8-A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft took part in the three month long exercise.

More than 1200 Australian troops were engaged in various activities at ports in India, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

An email had been sent to Department of Defence seeking comment.

Euan Graham, a former Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia analyst for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, claimed the Chinese warship followed the Australian ships for most of the transit, both on the way up and back. He said it was despite the fact that none of the Australian ships passed through any sensitive area or feature occupied by Chinese military

Euan Graham, a former Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia analyst for the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, claimed the Chinese warship followed the Australian ships for most of the transit, both on the way up and back. He said it was despite the fact that none of the Australian ships passed through any sensitive area or feature occupied by Chinese military

The resource-rich South China Sea is bordered by Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

China has made sweeping claims of sovereignty over the sea and continues to construct military outposts on artificial islands in disputed waters.  



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