Japan Intercepts Chinese Spy Plane Over East China Sea

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Japan Intercepts Chinese Spy Plane Over East China Sea

For the second time this month, Japan scrambled fighter jets to intercept a PLANAF aircraft in the East China Sea.

Japan Intercepts Chinese Spy Plane Over East China Sea
Credit: Japanese Ministry of Defense

China stepped up its aerial patrols near Japan in December with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) scrambling fighter jets for the second time this month to intercept a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) Shaanxi Y-9JB (GX-8) electronic warfare and surveillance plane crossing the East China Sea and Tsushima Strait.

According to Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD), the intercept took place on December 27 in international airspace while the Chinese aircraft was crossing the Tsushima Strait, a channel connecting the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea, and the East China Sea. The PLANAF aircraft did not enter Japanese airspace, the MoD reports.

The December 27 intercept constitutes the seventh time in the second half of 2018 that the JASDF dispatched fighter jets to intercept and escort a People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) or PLANAF Y-9JB aircraft. Prior to December 27, the most recent intercept took place on December 14.

Another intercept of a PLANAF Y-9JB occurred on November 26. JASDF aircraft also conducted a scramble against a similar PLANAF aircraft type on October 29. Other intercepts occurred on August 29 and July 27. Additionally, a Y-9JB, flying through international airspace between Okinawa and Miyako, was intercepted in June.

China has conducted surveillance missions with Y-9JBs, an upgraded variant of China’s first-generation Y-8DZ and Y-8G electronic reconnaissance aircraft, over the East China Sea and Sea of Japan at an approximate four-week interval since June, according to public data released by Japan’s MoD. As I reported previously:

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.

Overall, 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.

Notably on December 18, the Republic of China Air Force scrambled fighter jets to intercept and escort an undisclosed number of PLAAF Xian H-6K bombers, Sukhoi Su-30 fighter aircraft, and a Y-9JB aircraft conducting a long-range patrol near Taiwan. This marked the first time since May 25 that Taipei had to scramble fighter jets to intercept Chinese military aircraft in the vicinity of Taiwan.