Was the US Navy forced to withdraw from the South China Sea after Chinese jamming attacks on their planes?
Find out what’s going on, and what the FACTS really are…
Claim : US Navy Withdraws After Chinese Jamming Attacks!
This was the Chinese article that went viral after the Chinese 50 Cent Army (wumao) and netizens promoted it excitedly in July 2020, and again in 2022.
It was allegedly translated into English by Hong Kong-based analyst, Thomas Wing Polin, whose translation was widely circulated on social media
It was this English translation that went viral again social media, after tensions rose between the US and China over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The post is very long, so feel free to skip to the next section for the facts…
US Navy Withdraws After Jamming : Just A Chinese Fantasy
That Chinese article was given some legitimacy after it was posted in Asia Times by Pepe Escobar.
However, it is COMPLETELY BOGUS, and is yet another example of Chinese propaganda warfare. Here are the facts…
Fact #1 : There Is No Such CNBC Report
A quick check on any search engine will show that CNBC never published a report on US Growler planes being attacked by Chinese jamming.
Fact #2 : No US Growler Planes Ever Lost Control From Chinese Jamming
No US EA-18G Growler planes ever lost control to Chinese jamming.
The Americans first detected Chinese jamming during USS Theodore Roosevelt’s deployment to the Philippines in 2018.
One EA-18G Growler pilot confirmed it in an interview with GMA News Online, but pointed out that they were not in danger :
Fact #3 : EA-18G Growler Is An Electronics Warfare Aircraft
The Boeing EA-18G Growler is a two-seat electronics warfare aircraft, designed to jam enemy radar and electronics.
While the Growler is still vulnerable to powerful ground jamming, it is the worst aircraft for the Chinese to attack electronically because it’s the American aircraft most able to defend against, and respond to, a jamming attack.
Hence, the pilot’s response – “We have an answer to [Chinese jamming]“.
Fitted with a multitude of jamming pods and electronics, its electronics warfare officer can counter-jam Chinese radar and communications in the area.
And if they are ever in real danger, the pilot can fire an AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile) to destroy the Chinese jammer.
But perhaps that’s also the reason why the Chinese chose to attack the EA-18G Growler in 2018 – it was the aircraft best able to withstand such an attack.
Fact #4 : It Is Illegal To Jam Any Aircraft In International Airspace
China has the right to jam foreign military aircraft entering its airspace without permission, but the Chinese do not have the right to jam any aircraft, military or civilian, flying in international airspace.
While a jamming attack is not an act of war like firing a missile or shooting shells at the aircraft, it is still a hostile, provocative act that could result in the loss of aircraft and aircrew.
Needless to say – it is illegal for for anyone to electronically interfere with aircraft flying in international space, even if they are EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft.
No nation that claims to be peaceful would behave so recklessly.
Fact #5 : China Pledged Not To Militarise The Spratlys
Back in 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared that China has no intention to militarise the Spratly islands :
President Xi Jinping also reiterated that China is “committed to freedom of navigation in the sea” and to “resolving disputes through dialogue“.
The presence of military jamming equipment in 2018 though would suggest that President Xi was lying, or has no control of what really goes on in the South China Sea.
It doesn’t help that the writer specifically pointed out how China has militarised those islands :
Fact #6 : Jammers Are Offensive Weapons
The claim that electronic jammers are defensive weapons is nonsensical. Electronic jamming is an offensive capability.
Imagine if your neighbour uses an electronic jammer to disrupt your Wi-Fi network, claiming that he has the right to defend his own Wi-Fi network. Which court in the world would agree with him?
The Chinese author of that fantasy piece actually debunked his own claim that jammers are defensive weapons, noting that “it is an electronic jamming device that can cut off the enemy’s radio system. The attacked fighter will be out of control. Since it cannot be controlled, these fighters will soon crash.”
Does that sound like a defensive weapon to you? Serious lack of logic and common sense.
Fact #7 : Electronic Jammers Do Not Affect Flight Controls
While electronic jammers can suppress or disrupt radar and communications, they cannot render an aircraft uncontrollable.
Airplanes will not crash simply because they lose radar and communications. Planes that lose radar and communications can still fly…
So the claim that Chinese jammers caused the Growler planes to almost crash is ludicrous.
Fact #8 : Chinese Jammers Do Not Cover Half The South China Sea
While the writer claims that the US military acknowledged that China’s electronic jamming system has covered more than half of the South China Sea, this is yet another fantasy.
The Chinese only deployed military jamming equipment to several artificial islands they created on Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross.
And as powerful as ground-based jamming can be, their effectiveness is greatly reduced by range. That’s why China introduced their Xi’an H-6G airborne jamming aircraft in 2018.
These long-range jamming aircraft would not be necessary if China is already capable of jamming electronics across such a vast distance.
Fact #9 : The United States Did Not Withdraw
The United States did not withdraw from the South China Sea in July 2020, as claimed by the article.
In fact, they sent two aircraft carriers – USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan – together with their battle groups into the South China Sea just before the Chinese article was published.
It was the first time two carrier groups operated together in the South China Sea since 2009. The third US carrier – USS Theodore Roosevelt – was also nearby, in the Philippine Sea.
The US Navy Chief of Information left no doubt that the two carriers were there to assert that the South China Sea are international waters, not Chinese waters.
And yet, there they are. Two @USNavy aircraft carriers operating in the international waters of the South China Sea. #USSNimitz & #USSRonaldReagan are not intimidated #AtOurDiscretion https://t.co/QGTggRjOul
— Navy Chief of Information (@chinfo) July 5, 2020
Not did it withdraw in April 2021 when the same article went viral again.
In April 2021, the US Navy posted this famous photo of the captain and executive officer of USS Mustin (DDG-89) – an Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyer watching the Liaoning carrier group in the Philippine Sea.
The photo left no doubt that the US Navy was not going anywhere, and would shadow Chinese naval forces wherever they are in the South China Sea… and beyond.
Neither did they withdraw in 2022 when the same fake story went viral again.
On 20 January 2022, USS Benfold – an Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyer – conducted a Freedom of Navigation operation by sailing past the Paracel Islands (which the Chinese call Xisha Islands).
On 24 January 2022, two US aircraft carrier groups led by USS Carl Vinson and USS Abraham Lincoln entered the South China Sea for training exercises.
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