Japan: Fighter reactions to Russian air incursions up 73%

Japan: Fighter reactions to Russian air incursions up 73%

According to government figures released this week, instances of fighter jets scrambling into the skies above Japan jumped by 73 percent in the six months through September, led by sorties confronting Russian bombers and spy planes.

Scrambles jumped to 533 from 308 a year earlier, the Defense Ministry said, and the total is on course to surpass figures seen during the last fiscal year, themselves the highest in nearly a quarter of a century.

Flights dispatched specifically to meet Russian aircraft in the latest six months soared to 324 from 136, although they eased during the second half of the period under review.

“We don’t know the reason for the increased air activity. That’s something for the Russians to answer,” said a Self-Defense Forces official, who declined to be identified under ground rules for a recent press tour of facilities in Hokkaido. …

Incursions in Japan’s northern air zone in the latest six months rose to 189 from 110 a year earlier. …

The unexpectedly high number of overflights by Russian aircraft from the north comes as Japan is thinning out its forces in Hokkaido in order to focus more on China. …

Russia’s ability to prod Japan’s northern defenses, meanwhile, may increase. Moscow plans to spend as much as a fifth of its national budget on defense by 2018. That means an 18 percent increase in military outlays this year followed by 33 percent more over the next two budget terms.

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