The headline on this CNN.com story is "Near-miss preceded plane collision, Pentagon official says."
Further elaborating, "A Chinese fighter passed as close as 3 feet to a slow-moving U.S. spy plane before the two craft collided, sending the Chinese jet into the sea and the U.S. plane to an emergency landing in China, a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday." Well, duh. It also passed as close as 2 feet, then 1 feet...and then you had the collision.
This is what we mathematicians call the "Intermediate Value Theorem".
(Yes, I know if you read the bottom part, it explains that the "near-miss" refers to an approach prior to the one involving the collision, but you shouldn't have to read that far into the story to figure out what's going on. And don't get me started on whether a "near-miss" is the same thing as a "near-collision.")