Countering Chinese Advances, Japan Scrambles Record Number of Jets

Thursday, April 13, 2017
By Paul Martin

As China seeks to move deeper into the Western Pacific, Japan’s Defense Ministry reports that the country’s fighter jets intercepted foreign aircraft in record numbers in the fiscal year that ended March 30.

The previous high of 944 jet scrambles was achieved in 1984 at the height of the Cold War. The new record stands at 1,168 scrambles, with nearly a quarter, about 73 percent, a response to Chinese aircraft approaching Japan’s airspace. This number is the greatest of any country since Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) began publishing information on scrambles against other nations.

Encounters with Russians flights, mostly long-range bombers, made up 26 percent of the total.

At a Tokyo briefing on Thursday, Japanese Chief of Staff Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano said, “Recently, we have seen Chinese military aircraft operating further south and that is bringing them closer to the main Okinawa island and other parts of the island chain.”

He added, “Activities of Chinese jets are on the rise in terms of their frequency, area and duration … Considering the modernizing trend of the Chinese military, we expect this to continue.”

>Japan’s Defense Ministry reported that in the 2016 fiscal year, Japanese airspace was not violated by foreign aircraft. The ministry also reported 26 “unusual” flights, including some by Chinese bombers and fighters, in airspace that is international but is contested politically.

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