Japan fighter jets scrambled 390 times in 2021, mainly for Chinese aircraft


The Japanese Ministry of Defense reported that during the first half of the fiscal year 2021, which begins in April, fighter jets from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force scrambled 390 times to intercept aircraft that threatened the country’s territory.

On October 15, 2021, Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi reported that the number increased by 19 alerts compared to the same period of 2020. 

Out of 390 alerts, 281 (72%) were caused by Chinese aircraft. Russian aircraft accounted for 102 alerts (about 26%), which is a decrease compared to the previous year. The nationality of the remaining seven aircraft remained undisclosed.

In 2020, Japan changed its strategy regarding interceptions, with fighter jets being scrambled solely when foreign aircraft threatened the country’s airspace.

This move follows the progressive deployment of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jet. “The F-35 is not suitable for emergency lift-off, and it will become difficult to maintain the same system as before,” the Japanese Ministry of Defense said at the time.

To compensate for the reduction in systematic visual identification through interceptions, the Japanese military increased the proportion of land-based long-range radars and early warning aircraft for long-distance monitoring.

On October 10, 2021, a Mitsubishi F-2 fighter from the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) lost its canopy mid-flight after taking off to intercept a foreign aircraft potentially trespassing in Japanese airspace.

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