Japan Scrambles Fighter Jets to Intercept Chinese Y-9JB Aircraft Over East China Sea

The Japan Air Self Defense Force intercepted a PLANAF spy plane near Okinawa on December 14.

Japan Scrambles Fighter Jets to Intercept Chinese Y-9JB Aircraft Over East China Sea
Credit: Japan Ministry of Defense

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) scrambled fighter jets to intercept a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) Shaanxi Y-9JB (GX-8) electronic warfare and surveillance plane near Okinawa on December 14, Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced last week. The aircraft was intercepted while flying through international airspace between the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Miyako.

The latest action constitutes the sixth time in the second half of 2018 that the JASDF sent fighter jets to intercept and escort a People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) or PLANAF Y-9JB aircraft. The last intercept of a PLANAF Y-9JB occurred on November 26, while a previous intercept took place on October 29. Prior to that, intercepts occurred on August 29 and July 27. In the majority of cases the PLANAF aircraft was intercepted while traversing Sea of Japan and East China Sea. Additionally, a Y-9JB, flying through international airspace between Okinawa and Miyako, was intercepted in June.

The PLANAF and PLAAF have been regularly dispatching electronic warfare and surveillance aircraft to the Sea of Japan and East China Sea, occasionally traversing the strategically important Miyako Strait, at approximately four-week intervals since June.  The Y-9JB aircraft, an upgraded variant of China’s first-generation Y-8DZ and Y-8G electronic reconnaissance planes, have not violated Japanese airspace in any of the instances cited above.

The number of PLANAF/PLAAF aircraft intercepts went up by approximately 20 percent in the first six months of the current Japanese fiscal year, which begins in April and ends in March. As of September 2018, 345 Chinese intercepts have been recorded by the JASDF. This constitutes an increase of 58 sorties in comparison to the previous fiscal year. 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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Notably, the JASDF also intercepted a Russian military aircraft in December. 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.