The Pentagon says two Chinese fighter jets flew within about 50 feet of a U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane Tuesday in international airspace over the South China Sea.

The Pentagon characterized the incident as an unsafe intercept and said it is being reviewed.

A U.S. military official says the two Chinese J-11 fighters flew out to intercept the U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft and came so close that they forced the pilot to descend a couple hundred feet in order to avoid a collision. The U.S. surveillance plane was conducting routine operations in the region.

The official says the incident took place in the northern part of the sea, south of Hong Kong. The official was not authorized to discuss details of the incident publicly, so spoke on condition of anonymity.