US plane disguised as PH aircraft? Gov’t seeks confirmation from American embassy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 29) — The government has formally asked the US Embassy to confirm reports that a US Air Force plane had disguised as a Philippine aircraft while flying over the Yellow Sea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday.

“I am waiting for feedback from the US Embassy,” Lorenzana told CNN Philippines in a text message. He said “we have no way of ascertaining” if a US reconnaissance aircraft indeed used an identification code that was allocated to a Philippine plane last week.

The information was reported by the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, a Beijing-based think tank. It said US’ RC-135S on September 22 "spoofed" a Philippines-assigned hex code “which was changed back to the original one after the mission was completed.”

Aviation tracker Aircraft Spots made a similar observation on Twitter, saying the US aircraft conducted a “miscoded” mission over the disputed Yellow Sea, which separates mainland China and the Korean peninsula.

The International Civil Aviation Organization assigns a unique hex code to an aircraft for identification.

On September 18, the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative reported that for three consecutive days, it had spotted a US surveillance aircraft using the hex codes of Malaysian planes near China’s coast.

In response to the incident, Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, commander of the US Pacific Air Forces, maintained that American troops always follow the rules on international airspace.

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said it has been an "old trick" of the US military to electronically impersonate civil aircraft of other countries. He said the US has done it "more than a hundred times" over the South China Sea.

China insists on owning the global waterway, including areas Manila claims as the West Philippine Sea, while the US conducts freedom of navigation operations and calls out Beijing’s alleged militarization of contested waters.