Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets scrambled 778 times in fiscal 2022 against foreign military aircraft and objects that could have violated Japan’s airspace, according to the Defense Ministry. This is 226 fewer scrambles than in the previous fiscal year. However, in addition to a significant increase in scrambles in response to Chinese unmanned aircraft, scrambles against flying objects such as unmanned reconnaissance balloons from unknown countries and regions were the most ever recorded. According to the ministry’s Joint Staff Office, ASDF fighters scrambled against Chinese manned aircraft 575 times, down by 147 from the previous fiscal year. But while there were four scrambles in response to Chinese unmanned aircraft in fiscal 2021, the figure doubled to eight in fiscal 2022.
There were 150 scrambles against Russian aircraft, down 40% from 266 scrambles in the previous fiscal year and the lowest number since fiscal 2013, according to the ministry. Scrambles against flying objects classified as “other” and having unknown country or region affiliation rose to 53. This is the highest number since fiscal 1958, when statistics began being kept. After a Chinese reconnaissance balloon was shot down in the United States in February, the SDF is believed to have stepped up its responses, as the ASDF scrambled 31 times that month. “We will continue to strictly carry out all possible vigilance and monitoring measures against airspace violations,” Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said at a press conference on Tuesday.
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