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Japan recorded higher UAV presence in FY 2022 air interceptions

Based on data from the Japan MoD, this graphic shows Chinese and Russian air activity around Japan from April 2022 to April 2023. Tokyo said that most of its aircraft scrambles were prompted by Chinese and Russian electronic intelligence aircraft. (Japan Ministry of Defense/Japan Coast Guard/Janes)

Japan reported an increase in air interceptions of Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in fiscal year (FY) 2022, even as it said that its overall fighter air scrambles had dwindled.

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) conducted 778 scrambles in FY 2022, according to data released by the Japan Ministry of Defense (MoD) on 18 April. This is 22.5% less than the 1,004 scrambles conducted by the JASDF in FY 2021, the data shows.

The data adds that despite the lower number of scrambles, the JASDF intercepted a greater number of aircraft, which it describes as “anomalous”. In FY 2022, the JASDF intercepted an estimated 384 such “anomalous” aircraft. These include carrier-based aircraft, strategic bombers, and electronic warfare or intelligence aircraft.

In FY 2021, despite conducting 226 more scrambles, JASDF aircraft intercepted between 90 and 120 aircraft falling under the “anomalous” description. Many JASDF scrambles in FY 2022 were because of Chinese and Russian intelligence gathering aircraft, the Japan MoD said.

The data suggests that one reason for the higher number of “anomalous” aircraft in FY 2022 was increased People's Liberation Army (PLA) air activity. The Japan MoD said there were successive PLA flight operations between Okinawa Main Island and Miyako-jima by Chinese aircraft in May 2022 and January 2023.

Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) J-15 carrier-borne fighter aircraft from China's Liaoning

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