Retired Lt. Gen. Kunio Orita, former commander of the Air Support Command (ASC) of the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF), posted on June 28 on an Internet news site an article disclosing that Chinese fighters “assumed an attack posture against SDF interceptors over the East China Sea, with the result that SDF fighters left the theater as they evaded a [possible] missile attack by the intruders.” The article provided no details such as the date, time, or location of the incident. Nor did it identify the model of the Chinese fighters. In response to the Sankei Shimbun’s questions, a Defense Ministry’s official acknowledged the general outline of Lt. Gen. Orita’s claim. “The issue is how close the Chinese fighters approached the SDF interceptors,” said the official.
Referring in the article to the latest incidents in which Chinese military vessels entered the contiguous zone (CZ) just outside Japanese territorial waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands and intruded into Japanese territorial waters around Kuchinoerabu Island (Kagoshima Prefecture), Orita pointed out that “Chinese navy fighters, as if they are in concert with the PRC vessels’ movements, began taking extremely dangerous and provocative actions against the scrambled SDF interceptors.”
When the Chinese fighters “took an attack posture” against the SDF interceptors, according to the article, the SDF airplanes “made defensive maneuvers to evade a possible missile attack.” Then, judging that the situation could develop into a dogfight and bring unexpected consequences, the SDF interceptors, initiating the missile approach warning system (MAWS), evaded a possible attack by the PRC fighters, leaving the theater.
In April 2001, there was a midair collision between a Chinese fighter and a U.S. military electronic reconnaissance plane over international waters near the South China Sea after the fighter approached extremely close to the American airplane. As a result, the reconnaissance plane made an emergency landing on Hainan Island in China. In January 2013, a Chinese navy warship shined its fire-control radar at an MSDF destroyer and helicopter in the East China Sea.
“When armed fighters are within missile range and engage in a dogfight, the situation could lead to a midair collision or the firing of missiles,” said Orita, a former fighter pilot.
“Without regard for common sense, Chinese fighters have been approaching the airspace over the Senkaku Islands,” Orita told the Sankei Shimbun on June 28. “If this becomes their regular practice, we will be unable to defend Japanese airspace.”
Orita joined the ASDF upon graduation from the National Defense Academy in 1974. He became the ASC commander in 2006. He retired in 2009.