The Air China Boeing 757 was forced to make emergency landing
It landed with a severely dented and scratched nose cone
Pilot heard a large bang and then the plane 'struggled to perform'
A passenger jet was forced to make an emergency landing after a mysterious mid-air collision with a 'foreign object' at 26,000ft severely dented its nose cone.
The front of the Air China Boeing 757 had been pushed in and scratches and scraped paintwork were clearly visible when it landed.
The plane was climbing over China when a large bang was heard from the front of aircraft.
Pictures of the Air China jet show the damage the mysterious mid-air collision caused to its nose cone
The pilot said the aircraft was struggling to perform and he immediately called air traffic controllers, according to reports.
He was then allowed him to return to the airport.
Experts said investigations into the suspected crash have raised suspicions that the aircraft was hit by a 'foreign object'.
However, they do not believe it was caused by a bird strike as no blood or feathers were visible on the dented nose cone.
The damage was only spotted when the plane, which was travelling from Chengdu to Guangzhou, safely landed.
The dented nose cone has caused speculation online that the aircraft hit a UFO as it flew over China
The pictures have prompted online speculation that it was caused by a UFO or a drone strike.
Other theories posted on the Aviation Herald include pressure from rapidly heated and expanded air.
Former government UFO investigator Nick Pope told The Sun
that an examination of the nose cone should reveal what hit it.
He said traces of whatever collided with the aircraft should be visible.
However, he questioned whether the 'secretive' Chinese would reveal the cause.
Mr Pope told The Sun
: 'Cases like this show that whatever people believe about UFOs, there are serious air safety issues here.
'MoD and CAA files contain dozens of reports of near misses between UFOs and commercial aircraft.
'It's only a matter of time before there's a catastrophe.'
No one was hurt in the mysterious incident.
Last week, it emerged that three passenger jet pilots saw UFOs above Britain's Scientology headquarters on their approach to Gatwick Airport.
A report revealed that they each saw 'two flat, silver discs', with some flying within 100ft.
Air traffic control then spotted six UFOs on their radars before they suddenly disappeared.
The encounter, which was probed by the UK Airprox Board, happened on December 30 just before 9am over the Scientology headquarters in East Grinstead, Sussex.