Japan scrambled fighter jets against aircraft approaching its airspace 725 times in fiscal 2020, down 222 times from a year earlier, the Defense Ministry said Friday, as the country seeks to shift its policy from reactively mobilizing planes to proactive surveillance.
Government sources have said Japan has restricted the scrambling of such jets against Chinese military aircraft to only those threatening to violate its airspace, with this policy shift aimed at freeing up resources to concentrate on more high-level training using its latest F-35 stealth fighters.
By country, the largest number of scrambles by Air Self-Defense Force jets came in response to Chinese aircraft, with 458 in the fiscal year that ended in March, down 217 from a year before.
But the ministry said it remains on alert over China’s growing military assertiveness.
The ASDF frequently scrambles fighter jets against Chinese aircraft, while China’s maritime assertiveness continues to be a source of concern for Japan.
Chinese coast guard ships have repeatedly intruded into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. China claims the Japanese-controlled, uninhabited islands and calls them Diaoyu.
Against Russian aircraft, jet scrambles were down by 10 to 258 times in fiscal 2020, the ministry said.
In fiscal 2019, Japan scrambled fighter jets 947 times in response to feared intrusions by aircraft into its airspace.
Scrambling is conducted to deter foreign aircraft from entering a nation’s airspace.
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