Japan Intercepts Chinese Electronic Warfare and Surveillance Aircraft Over East China Sea

The Japan Air Self Defense Force intercepted a PLANAF spy plane over the East China Sea and Tsushima Strait on November 26.

Japan Intercepts Chinese Electronic Warfare and Surveillance Aircraft Over East China Sea
Credit: Japan Ministry of Defense

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) scrambled fighter jets to intercept a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) Shaanxi Y-9JB (GX-8) electronic warfare and surveillance plane crossing the Tsushima Strait, a channel connecting the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea, and the East China Sea on November 26, Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) revealed last week. The PLANAF has been regularly dispatching its spy planes to the Sea of Japan and East China Sea at an approximate four-week interval since June.

The recent scramble constitutes the fifth time in 2018 that the JASDF dispatched fighter jet to intercept and escort a PLANAF Y-9JB aircraft in the second half of 2018. The last intercept of a PLANAF Y-9JB took place on October 29. Prior to that, intercepts occurred on August 29 and July 27. In both instances the PLANAF aircraft was intercepted while traversing Sea of Japan and East China Sea. Additionally, a Y-9JB flying through international airspace between the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Miyako was intercepted in June.

Notably, the PLANAF Y-9JB aircraft, an upgraded variant of the first-generation Y-8DZ and Y-8G electronic reconnaissance planes, in all five instances did not violate Japanese airspace, according to the Japanese MoD.  The number of Chinese military aircraft intercepts increased by approximately 20 percent in the first six months of the current fiscal year, which begins in April and ends in March. Up until September 2018, 345 Chinese intercepts have been recorded by the JASDF. This constitutes an increase of 58 sorties, in comparison to fiscal year 2017.

The total number of JASDF scrambles decreased by 23 percent in fiscal year 2017 in comparison to 2016:

Overall, the JASDF scrambled fighter jets 904 times in response to unidentified aircraft approaching Japanese airspace during the last fiscal year that ended in March [2018].

Out of the total of 904, 500 scrambles occurred in response to People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft and 390 were prompted by Russian military planes.

This constitutes a decline of 41 percent for PLAAF aircraft, but a 29 percent increase of intercepts of Russian planes. Chinese and Russian aircraft respectively accounted for 55 percent and 43 percent of total intercepts in fiscal year 2017.

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According to the Japanese MoD, the JASDF intercepted a Russian military aircraft last month: Japanese fighters intercepted a Ilyushin Il-38 “Dolphin,” a maritime patrol aircraft and anti-submarine warfare aircraft designed in the Soviet Union, over the Sea of Japan on November 8. A previous intercept of two Russian Ilyushin Il-20 maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare planes took place on October 19.