Earlier this month Japan released some details about the growth of incursions by Chinese aircraft into Japanese airspace. The release of information comes after China unilaterally declared the establishment of its East China Sea ADIZ (air defense identification zone) last November. The figures show a significant rise in the number of interceptions being launched by the JASDF (Japan air self-defence force) against Chinese intruders.
In the early 2000s the service undertook only a handful of scrambles, but in 2005 the number exceeded 100. Although that figure dropped to 20 or so in 2006, since then the annual figures have continued to rise, reaching 150 in 2011 and 300 in 2012. In the fourth quarter of 2012 alone the JASDF launched 146 times. On December 13 a Harbin Y-12 of the Chinese SOA (state oceanic administration) flew not only within the Japanese ADIZ, but also in territorial airspace around Uotsuri Island, one of the disputed Senkaku Islands. These became of interest to China in the 1970s, when the potential of oilfields was discovered. China has unilaterally claimed them since 1992. At least 12 more flights by SOA aircraft around the Senkaku Islands have been operated since then, most recently on February 21 this year.
The Japanese ministry of defense has not released scramble figures for 2013 but does note that Chinese activity has continued at a high rate. Shaanxi Y-8J airborne early-warning aircraft (believed to be fitted with Searchwater 2000 radar) of the Chinese naval air arm have transited through the Japanese ADIZ between Okinawa and Miyakojima and out into the Pacific on several occasions, as have Xian H-6 missile-carriers. The JASDF also intercepted a Harbin BZK-005 surveillance UAV in the ADIZ near the Diaoyu Islands.
On November 23 China established its East China Sea ADIZ without warning, drawing international criticism and strong condemnation from Japan. Crucially, the Chinese ADIZ extension overlaps part of Japan’s ADIZ, including the airspace around the Senkaku Islands. It also overlaps a portion of South Korea’s ADIZ in the north, and that of Taiwan to the south. On the day of the ADIZ extension, China flew Tupolev Tu-154MD Type II and Shaanxi Y-8CB signals intelligence aircraft into the East China Sea up to the new edge of the Chinese ADIZ, and within that of Japan.
In riposte, three days later two U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers flew through the zone without notification to Chinese authorities. On January 31 this year China reported that it had launched two armed Sukhoi Su-30MKK fighters to intercept Japanese military aircraft in the East China Sea zone, although Japan did not confirm that the event had taken place.