PACOM: Chinese jets’ intercept of US nuke-sniffer was ‘unprofessional’

An Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix, which is commonly referred to as a nuke-sniffer, arrived at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Friday, April 7, 2017.


By TARA COPP | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 18, 2017

WASHINGTON — Two Chinese SU-30 fighter jets conducted a close-range "unprofessional" intercept of an Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix – commonly referred to as a nuke-sniffer – earlier this week, U.S. Pacific Command confirmed Thursday.

The aircraft specializes in detecting radiation or other signatures from nuclear tests or possible launches.

The intercept occurred Wednesday over the East China Sea, where the Constant Phoenix was "conducting a routine mission," said Lt. Col. Lori Hodge, a Pacific Air Forces spokeswoman.

"The WC-135 was operating in accordance with international law," Hodge said. "While we are still investigating the incident, initial reports from the U.S. aircrew characterized the intercept as unprofessional. The issue is being addressed with China through appropriate diplomatic and military channels."

A Constant Phoenix was spotted at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, in April, amid rising tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The Pentagon has often deployed one of the Air Force’s two WC-135 aircraft to the Asia-Pacific region since North Korea detonated an underground nuclear device in 2006. The plane also flew over Japan in 2011 after the meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, according to the Washington Post.

The modified C-135B uses external flow-through devices that collect air samples and debris. The samples later go to a lab for analysis.

Twitter: @TaraCopp