US spy plane disguising as PH aircraft near China could be test of Beijing reaction—Esperon
MANILA, Philippines—The United States could have been trying to test China’s reaction when a US Air Force surveillance plane disguised itself as a Philippine aircraft while flying over the Yellow Sea near China, according to Philippine National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on Thursday (Oct. 1).
“The (US) pilots are probably trying to test the reaction that would come from China and so the Chinese reacted and it came out in the news,” Esperon said at a press briefing.
The US Air Force’s RC-135S reconnaissance plane changed its hex code to one assigned to a Philippine aircraft when it flew over the Yellow Sea between the Chinese coast and Korea peninsula, the Beijing-based South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative reported.
According to the website Military.com, the RC135S is a “militarized Boeing 707” jet equipped with “a sophisticated array of optical and electronic sensors, recording media and communications equipment.” The plane, the website said, “is a national asset uniquely suited to provide America’s leaders and defense community with vital information that cannot be obtained by any other source.”
The hex code is the registered identification code of the aircraft at the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Esperon said the Yellow Sea is not an area where the Philippines commonly goes to and the incident was expected to raise suspicion.
“We usually stay within our domain in air and maritime patrols,” said Esperon, a former armed forces chief. “No going to the Yellow Sea for surveillance. So when you notice a Philippine code comes to the area, then all the more it brings suspicion,” he said.
According to Esperon, the incident should be discussed with US officials as it could “incriminate” the Philippines.
“What could happen really is it could implicate or incriminate the Philippine side. Nonetheless, we hope this could be settled satisfactorily,” he said.
The US has so far not communicated with the Philippine government on the incident, Esperon said.
RC-135S, according to Military.com, is deployed only on orders of the US Joint Chief of Staff, the highest officer in the US military.