Between April and December of last year, Air Self-Defense Force jets were dispatched to intercept international aircraft entering Japanese airspace a record number of times, with the vast majority of occurrences involving Chinese warplanes testing Japan’s air defenses around the Okinawan islands.
According to a military analyst, Japanese air units are operating under procedures that have been altered in recent years to raise the barrier for interception flights, implying that the increase of aircraft probing Japan’s air defenses is far more pronounced than the newest numbers indicate.
According to the defense ministry, 785 incoming flights in the last nine months of 2021 were intercepted by ASDF fighters, which is recorded to be the most in the past five years. The sum surpassed the 725 events recorded over the entire fiscal year 2020-2021. Over nine months, Japanese fighters were ordered to combat Chinese aircraft multiple times.
Interceptions of Russian aircraft made up the majority of the other cases, accounting for 199 in total. This figure, however, was off by seven from the previous year.
Garren Mulloy, who is a defense expert and professor at Daito University, says that most of the cases were a cycle of “incremental” rises which were reported in the southwest of Japan in the last decade or so, which happens to coincide within the dispute between Tokyo and Beijing over the uninhabited islands within the borders of the East China Sea.
Chinese aircraft, working alongside Chinese coastguard ships, have assessed Japanese reactions all around Senkaku Islands. The islands, known as the Diaoyus, are claimed by Beijing.
“This rise is pretty much in line with what we’ve observed before, but it’s difficult to determine from the statistics how many circumstances they didn’t scramble units during last year under the new policy for interceptions,” he added.
Previously, Japanese fighters would be launched from Okinawa’s Kadena Air Base as soon as sensors spotted Chinese aircraft taking off from military bases in China’s Fujian province. Because the flight to the Senkaku Islands was equal to the time it would take the Chinese to reach the area, the ASDF needed to act immediately.
“However, the Chinese military was now operating so frequently all along the coast that the Japanese were finding it impossible to respond to each take-off,” Mulloy observed.
According to the increased limits, international aircraft must enter Japan’s Air Defence Zone or airspace over the East China Sea for a scramble to be permitted.
“This implies that the increase we’ve witnessed in the recent nine months was due to direct approaches to Japanese airspace rather than so-called ambient threats, suggesting that the overall number of aircraft identified would have been substantially greater,” he added.
Source: South China Morning Post