On Sept. 6, 1976, two Japanese F-4 Phantom jets were scrambled from Chitose Air Base in southern Hokkaido after Air Self-Defense Force radar picked up an unidentified aircraft approaching Japan.

The ASDF then warned the pilot of the Soviet MiG-25 fighter jet over an international emergency frequency that he was possibly violating Japanese airspace. The MiG-25 pilot ignored the warning, dropped below Japanese radar and landed at Hakodate airport.

Lt. Victor Ivanovich Belenko was seeking asylum in the United States. He was later quoted as saying he had no fear of trespassing in Japanese airspace because he knew the intercepters would never open fire.

Belenko was right.

The Japanese jets scrambled to meet him were equipped only with machineguns in line with the nation’s exclusively defensive security policy. After this incident, ASDF intercepters began carrying air-to-air missiles, although firing them as a pre-emptive action has been strictly forbidden to date.

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