The Joint Staff of Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MOD) announced on July 18 that the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) scrambled fighter jets 173 times against Chinese military aircraft approaching Japanese airspace between April and June this year. The number is up 72 from the same period a year earlier and the second-highest following the all-time high of 199 in 2016. A senior MOD official says, “We’ll continue to take all possible measures for surveillance and warning activities.”
Those ASDF scrambles were mostly against Chinese military fighter aircraft. But ASDF fighters were also scrambled against early-warning aircraft, bombers, and intelligence-gathering aircraft of the Chinese military. The MOD said there were 15 “unusual flights” between April and June, nine of which were made by Chinese military aircraft. The MOD confirmed aircraft shuttling between Okinawa’s main island and Miyakojima Island and aircraft flying over the Tsushima Strait.
The total number of scrambles that includes those against non-Chinese aircraft stood at 271, a year-on-year increase of 42 and the third-highest record. The number of scrambles against Russian aircraft was 95, down 30 on the year.