Chinese, Russian aircraft drawing more scrambles from Japanese jets
By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 20, 2016
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Japan is increasingly scrambling jets to check foreign aircraft as China tests its neighbor and Russia increases its presence in the Pacific.
While statistics on Japan Air Self-Defense Force intercepts for June to October show no air-space intrusions, there was an 11 percent increase from 281 in the previous three months, including a 4 percent rise in responses to near-approaches by Chinese fighters and a 30 percent increase in responses to Russian bombers.
The 594 sorties for April to October was a 73 percent increase from 343 in the same period last year. The 2016 figure included 407 sorties in response to Chinese fighters, an increase of 176 from the same period last year, which had been the highest number since 2001.
There were also 180 sorties in response to Russian bombers in April-October, an increase of 72 from a year earlier.
Both the Defense Ministry and JASDF declined to comment on the figures, although officials have repeatedly criticized Chinese expansion in the region. They also declined to comment on how Japan’s air space is set up, as it is not uniform surrounding Japanese territory.
Included in the statistics were sorties last month to intercept eight Chinese military aircraft flying between Okinawa’s main island and Miyako Island.
Japanese officials spoke out against China’s comments last month that it would continue to patrol an Air Defense Identification Zone that includes portions of the East China Sea’s high seas and airspace over the resource-rich Senkaku island chain, claimed by both Japan and China.
There have also been 30 Chinese incursions at sea so far this year.