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Japan fighter aircraft scrambled 238 times in first quarter

The JASDF and the Japan MoD detailed 26 ‘anomalous' flights by foreign aircraft near Japanese territory in 2023. This includes several flight operations conducted by fighter aircraft operated by China's second aircraft carrier, Shandong. (Japan Ministry of Defense/Janes)

Japanese fighter aircraft conducted 238 scrambles in response to foreign aircraft in the first quarter (Q1) of Japanese fiscal year (JFY) 2023 .

This number, which covers the period from 1 April to 30 June, is the second highest number of scrambles conducted in Q1 of any year, in the last five years. In 2019 a higher number of 246 scrambles were conducted in Q1, according to data from the Japan Ministry of Defense (MoD).

In its latest disclosure, the MoD detailed 26 “anomalous” flights by foreign aircraft during Q1 2023. This includes four unique “flight” operations involving Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-15s deployed on China's second aircraft carrier, Shandong (CV-17), in April. Based on previous carrierborne flight operations in the western Pacific near Japan, Janes has assessed that the J-15s may have conducted at least 100 sorties.

Some of Japan's fighter scrambles were conducted in response to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) operated by China's People's Liberation Army (PLA). This follows a trend established in the 2022 JFY when the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) scrambled aircraft to intercept at least 10 sorties of PLA UAVs.

Between April and June 2023 the JASDF recorded at least three UAV sorties near Japan.

Most of the foreign aircraft flights, which Japan assessed as ‘anomalous' during Q1 2023, were Chinese fighter aircraft. Apart from sorties by Shandong's J-15s, 17 PLA fighter aircraft were also tracked near Japanese territory while escorting Russian and Chinese bombers conducting a joint patrol on 6–7 June.

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