SDF scrambled jets a record 340 times in April-June, mainly for Russian planes

AFP-JIJI

The Self-Defense Forces scrambled fighter jets a record 340 times in the three months to June, in response to feared intrusions on the country’s airspace.

The Joint Staff of the SDF said Wednesday that around 70 percent of the jet launches were in response to Russian planes approaching Japanese airspace. The rest were scrambled in response to approaching Chinese planes, it said, claiming that Japanese airspace was not violated on any of the occasions.

The latest figure marked a sharp increase compared to the same quarter last year, when Japanese jets were scrambled 110 times.

“The chief factor for the increase was the rise in (the number of launches) in response to Russian planes,” the SDF said, particularly along Japan’s northern coastline. “Scrambles were often against information-gathering planes from Russia and fighter jets from China.”

Russia frequently dispatches jets near Japan. This was common back in the Cold War but dropped off after the breakup of the Soviet Union. They have picked up again in recent years.

Japan and China, meanwhile, are locked in the territorial row over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are administered by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.

Chinese government ships and planes have been seen numerous times off the disputed islands, sometimes within the 12 nautical-mile territorial zone, since Japan nationalized some of them in September 2012.