Japan scrambled aircraft 4.5 times more this May than last

Courtesy of the Defense Ministry
A fighter jet takes off from China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier in the Pacific in May.

As more foreign military aircraft seemingly threaten to intrude into Japan’s airspace, the Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighter jets on 119 occasions in May, about 4½ times more than the 26 cases in the same month last year.

The Defense Ministry said Tuesday that this number was inflated by responses to China’s exercises of fighter jets and helicopters with the Liaoning aircraft carrier in the Pacific. China conducted over 300 takeoffs and landings with the Liaoning off Okinawa in May.

On May 24, Chinese and Russian bombers jointly flew over the Sea of Japan and the Pacific for the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to the Joint Staff of the Defense Ministry, ASDF fighter jets scrambled 93 times to intercept Chinese military aircraft, an increase from 20 cases in the same month last year. The remaining 26 scrambles were to intercept Russian military aircraft, up from six cases in May 2021.

Nearly 70% of the scrambles, or 81 cases, involved the Southwestern Air Defense Force that oversees Okinawa and the Nansei Islands, the island chain between Kyushu and Taiwan.