Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force said its fighter jets were scrambled 594 times in the six months through September to intercept military aircraft approaching the country’s airspace, or more than double the 251 events in the same period the previous year.
The biggest increase was against Chinese fighter aircraft and Russian bombers, according to an ASDF report released this month.
Despite the surge in scrambles, no violations of airspace were reported, though reports in July suggested Japanese and China jets came close to a dogfight when locking radar was used, a sign to a pilot of a potential attack. Both sides denied the reports.
The increased tensions in the sky between the two countries reflect disputes at sea level over claims on uninhabited islets in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. Japan’s newspapers have reported the country will develop a new land-to-sea missile to strengthen the defense of its islands.
In another territory dispute, this time off Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, it was revealed this month that Russia has installed anti-ship missiles on the Kuril Islands, a territory occupied by Russia since the end of World War II, but claimed by Japan.
Russia and Japan have never signed a peace treaty to formally end the hostilities of seven-decades ago because of the Kuril Islands dispute, an area known as the Northern Territories in Japan. Russian leader Vladimir Putin visits Japan in December for meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the dispute is on the agenda.
Meantime, military pilots of all three countries will be kept on their toes. According to the ASDF, China’s military aircraft were the cause of the overwhelming majority of the Japanese jet scrambles, reaching 407 through September, or 176 more than the previous period. Japanese fighter scrambles against Russian aircraft totaled 180, up 72.
In percentage terms, about 69% of the intercepts involved Chinese aircraft and 30% Russian. The remaining 1% involved aircraft the ASDF didn’t identify.