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Testing Japan’s Resolve

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Kawasaki, JAPAN — Last year was a busy year for Japan’s fly-boys in the ASDF. So according to NHK today:

The Defense Ministry said the Air Self-Defense Force conducted 386 emergency take-offs in the fiscal year that ended in March. That’s an increase of 87 from the previous fiscal year.

Air Self-Defense Force jets were scrambled 264 times to ward off Russian military and commercial planes. They accounted for 68 percent of the total, the biggest share. The number of scrambling incidents involving Chinese jets more than doubled from the previous fiscal year to 96, the second largest figure.

[...]The number of emergency take-offs by the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) fell sharply after the Cold War, but has been on the rise since fiscal 2005.

This has been well-known among Japan watchers for a while, but it really is shocking just how much of a rise this accounts for on previous years. The graph at the bottom shows just how significantly the number of intercepts have risen over the last decade.

"They might have been testing Japan's defense capability as they regarded Japan-U.S. relations as weakened.”

-Japanese Defense Ministry

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What may be surprising is the difference in the length of the flights, wherein Russia gets away with a lot more when compared to Japan’s other neighbors such as China, with Russian flights circumnavigating Japan more and more year after year. 

This arrogance is clearly displayed in the high number of intercepts the Russians have caused – especially in a year that saw increasing tensions over the Northern Territories.

After an eventful year in the East China Sea too, it is also unsurprising that scrambling to intercept Chinese flights have risen as well. Japan refuses to allow the Chinese to assert control over the Senkaku islands, and the Okinawan district of the ASDF will undoubtedly remain busy this year.

However, on the whole, I think we all hope that this year will be a quieter one for the ASDF who have had their hands full in Tohoku following the earthquake, but it pays to stay pessimistic when it comes to one’s territorial sovereignty, particularly with neighbors like these.


James Simpson currently resides in Kawasaki, Japan. This year he migrated his blog Defending Japan to Japan Security Watch. Simpson is a former contributor to World Intelligence and has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University in Wales.

-Read more about Japanese security issues at Japan Security Watch.

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (?????) was founded on July 1, 1954 and has 45,000 personnel (2005) operating 805 aircraft (2010). It is part of the Japan Self-Defense Forces

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