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Lingshui Air Base - EP-3 Incident

At approximately 8:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Saturday, March 31, (9:15 a.m. Sunday local time in China) in international airspace, a U.S. Navy EP-3 (Navy file photo pictured above) maritime patrol aircraft on a routine surveillance mission over the South China Sea, was intercepted by two People's Republic of China fighter aircraft. There was contact between one of the Chinese aircraft and the EP-3, causing sufficient damage for the U.S. plane to issue a "Mayday" signal and divert to an Lingshui airfield on Hainan Island, PRC. The pilots and crew of the downed EP-3E ARIES II were taken prisoner by local officials and were detained and interrogated.

Following a nearly 11 day standoff between the United States and the People's Republic of China, diplomats came to an agreement that released the U.S. aircrew.

On April 11, Ambassador Prueher said he presented a letter from the U.S. government to the Chinese foreign minister that sought to resolve the situation. The letter notes the U.S. government's regret over the loss of the missing Chinese pilot, presumed dead, and his aircraft. The letter also notes the U.S. government is sorry the damaged U.S. plane entered Chinese airspace to make an unauthorized emergency landing on Hainan.

The letter expressed appreciation for China's efforts to see to the well-being of the American crew.

According to the letter, the American and Chinese governments agreed to hold an April 18 meeting to discuss the causes of the mid-air collision and possible recommendations to avoid such incidents in the future.

This one-meter resolution, color satellite image of the Lingshui military airfield on the southeastern coast of Hainan Island in the South China Sea, was collected at 10:12 a.m. local time on April 4, 2001 (10:12 p.m. EDT on April 3, 2001) by Space Imaging's IKONOS satellite. The United States navy aircraft is clearly visible and parked on the taxiway adjacent to the end of the runway. This is the first high-resolution commercial satellite image taken of the Lingshui airfield. IKONOS travels 423 miles above the Earth's surface at a speed of 16,000 miles per hour.

Credit: Space Imaging. Copyright (c) Space Imaging. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Online and news media distribution or publishing requires permission from Space Imaging. (Gary Napier: 1 (303) 254-2106)
Click on the small image to view a larger version

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Lingshui Air Base Overview

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:45:30 ZULU