Air Self-Defense Force jets were scrambled a record 160 times between April and December to intercept Chinese aircraft approaching Japanese airspace, SDF officials said.
The number of scrambles is 17 more than from the same period last year.
“The figure reflects the increasing activities of Chinese vessels and aircraft in the East China Sea,” Gen. Shigeru Iwasaki, SDF chief of joint staff, said at a news conference on Jan. 24. “We have to keep watch over the mid- to long term.”
The number has already exceeded the 156 scrambles throughout fiscal 2011--from April 2011 through March 2012--the previous record since counts by target country became available in fiscal 2001.
Fighter jets were scrambled 91 times between October and December, when Sino-Japanese relations hit rock bottom after the Japanese government’s decision in September to put three of the Senkaku Islands under national ownership. That figure was up sharply from 15 scrambles between April and June, and 54 scrambles between July and September.
The Chinese military’s early-warning aircraft with powerful radar accounted for the largest part of the Chinese aircraft targeted by the scrambles. They likely flew close to Japanese airspace to collect information.
Fighter jets were scrambled 349 times from April through December, including those against aircraft of nations other than China--up 14 from the same period in 2011.
Among them, jets scrambling to meet Russian planes accounted for the largest number, 180, but during the period from October to December, there were only 46 scrambles against Russian aircraft, about half the number of scrambles against China.
The ASDF scrambles fighter jets when foreign planes enter Japan’s “air defense identification zone” without permission. The air defense identification zone is an area just outside of Japanese airspace.
On Dec. 13, a propeller-driven Y-12 aircraft of China’s State Oceanic Administration intruded into Japanese airspace south of Uotsurishima island, the largest of the disputed Senkaku Islands. It was the first time that China violated Japanese airspace.
Since then, Y-12 aircraft have repeatedly encroached on the air defense identification zone, prompting the ASDF to scramble fighter jets.
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