Japan Intercepting Record Numbers of Chinese Planes

Here’s some interesting information about how China is becoming increasingly assertive in the Western Pacific.  Japanese fighters scrambled to intercept Chinese intelligence planes near or in Japanese airspace a record-setting 83 times between April and September of this year.

This is three times the number of interceptions made by the Japanse Air Self Defense Force against Chinese planes during the same six-month period in fiscal year 2010, according to the Japanese paper Asahi Shimbun.

The 83 scrambles against Chinese aircraft greatly exceeds the 24 in the first half of last year. It is even greater than the 72 times ASDF aircraft were scrambled in the second half of fiscal 2010, when relations with Beijing deteriorated after a Chinese trawler rammed two Japan Coast Guard ships in waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands.

The figure for the six-month period is the highest since such half-year statistics have been compiled from fiscal 2003 and exceeds the full fiscal year figures of 43 for 2007, 31 for 2008 and 38 for 2009.

Defense Ministry officials said they could not confirm if any Chinese aircraft violated Japanese airspace.

Ministry officials said China was strengthening its intelligence-gathering and electronic warfare capabilities.

This comes as China is fielding its first aircraft carrier,  anti-ship ballistic missiles, a ton of spy satellites and even MRAPs. Oh yeah, it’s also developing a stealth fighter and a host of new UAVs.

All this is to ‘protect that which is ours,’ say Chinese leaders. The problem is, no one outside of China is certain just what Beijing’s power elite considers to be theirs.

“I’d be a lot happier if knew exactly what their intent was,” said Bruce Carlson, National Reconnaissance Office director while discussing the Pentagon’s space warfare preparations last month. “They’re an incredibly modern society but their military philosophy goes all the way back to probably, 4,000 years ago. They believe in deception, that’s just one of their mantras so I remain concerned about their intent and exactly what it is, I do not know — but I’m concerned about it.”

Now, the Pentagon isn’t just turning a blind eye to this.  Just this week, 3,000 U.S. and Filipino marines are conducting amphibious landing exercises near the Spratly Islands — a South China Sea island chain that China is very keen to claim  due to its proximity to potential oil reserves.

While the exceersies aren’t officially aimed at China, there’s no doubt it sends a message to everyone in the region that the U.S. is paying attention.

  • blight_

    Guess they could fly a UAV into it and force it down in Japan. Recreate the Hainan incident.

    Or just stage “collisions” where nothing is ever found. Just as the Soviets shot down American aircraft, or the PRC shot down ROC reconaissance aircraft in the early years.

  • Bill

    I’m beginning to see, regrettably, the effects of limiting Japan to a self-defense force. Once Japan was isolated to only its defensive capability, it left a power well in east Asia, and without Japan as a historical contender for this power, China has sucked it all up.

    I do not know necessarily if it is even possible, but withdrawing the hold on Japan’s offensive capability may be a VERY good idea. If Japan is allowed to assert itself in east Asia, perhaps China will be more cautious in making wild ownership claims.

    Most countries in East and SE Asia are very concerned with Chinese expansion, and it will take the union of South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and SE countries to hold their ground and not allow China to essentially own all water in the area.

    • blight_

      It’s not a decision for us to make. It’s for Japan. I don’t remember if we set explicit limits to their force composition as was imposed on Weimar Germany, but Japan has a fairly nasty force for its size.

      Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are the speed bumps to PRC expansion. I imagine that all three must work together to figure this one out…

      • cozine

        China, Japan and Korea had a intertwining history of conflict, mistrust and animosity for centuries. Hoping Japan and Korea to work ‘together’ against China is like hoping a wolf and a hyena to work together against a tiger, just because to western eyes the former two look alike do not mean they think alike or, for that matter, trust each other.

        Don’t forget Pearl harbor.

        • Bill

          French and British resentment went way back as well - common enemies make allies. It benefits Western interests to make sure Taiwan, S. Korea, and Japan get along, but it must be obvious that it would benefit each other to assert themselves collectively against PRC.

          No country in their right mind would stand up to China alone, they have to have collective strength in order to protect themselves.

          I would hope the US would defend its East Asian allies if $hit hit the fan.

          • blight

            They probably will. I guess our abandonment of GLCM limited our options when it came to supporting our overseas allies. ATACMS is nice, but at 100+ mile range isn’t impressive strategically.

          • Riceball

            While you make a good point there is a bit of a difference and that is, France & England haven’t been at war with each other in a couple of centuries where as Korea was, until just after WW II, considered to be part of Japan and don’t forget about Japan being in China from the 30’s until the end of WW II. During that time Japan slaughtered countless numbers of innocent civilians and the Koreans were treated (at best) as 2nd class citizens. I’d say the the rivalry & mistrust runs deeper and stronger than the old Fracno-Anglo did since neither England nor France ever occupied either country nor committed wholesale atrocities against its civilians.

            The hatred & mistrust runs back even deeper than the 20th century when back when China was still a major regional power China once ruled over Korea and tried invading Japan when China was under Mongol rule. So the Koreans have pretty good reason not to trust their neighbors since they’ve had a history of invading and conquering them.

          • blight_

            “England nor France ever occupied either country nor committed wholesale atrocities against its civilians.” England occupied France during Hundred Year’s…if anything, “England” was ruled by a Norman ruling class from Normandy. However, “France” did not conquer “England” at times after William the Conqueror.

      • Enrico

        You wrote their “pacifistic constitution, which is almost impossible to modify, a simple treaty would have been way more trivial than that.

    • tiger

      The Japanese people have no desire to expand their forces. They will be years just fixing the Earthquake damage.

    • Jim S.

      Don’t forget that Japan has sent troops to Iraq during OIF, so I wouldn’t underestimate their military just because its official title is Self Defense Forces

    • fullspec

      lol @ wild ownership claims, Bill. They have a historical attachment to their claims, not plunderers and conquerors from Europe and North America. Otherwise they would have colonized us before Columbus… there is a reason why Japan needs to remain with limited capabilities. And believe me if it was China that did those things in the war, they too deserve the same fate as Japan. But they didnt. As I recall, they were the victims of Japanese imperialism, and they were also American allies? So why all the paranoia of what I see as a nation that is building its own economy and stepping up its own defenses to counter the ring of US bases that are encroaching on its boundaries? Perhaps they might be a little more transparent if we decided to cooperate and not isolate. How transparent is our own military?? The list of ways we could improve our relations is endless. Get with the times.

  • mhmm…

    Just about every two days
    Wonder if they kept a regular schedule

  • brok3n

    “They’re an incredibly modern society but their military philosophy goes all the way back to probably, 4,000 years ago. They believe in deception, that’s just one of their mantras so I remain concerned about their intent and exactly what it is, I do not know — but I’m concerned about it.” - Bruce Carlson

    Glad to hear someone get’s it.

  • Guest

    I feel like we almost have to expect a Chinese large-scaled show of force. They act like kids - test out how far they can go.

    interesting article as well: http://www.defencetalk.com/us-worries-over-chinas…

    • blight

      That nuclear tunnel stuff sounds like the Peacekeeper’s “racetrack” model, which was derided by Reagan (until replaced by dense-pack, which also was derided in circles).

      • Guest

        exactly. but mostly it fits into the bigger picture of chinese foreign policy. while the world is trying to make nukes known to the public (START Threaty…) china is hiding theirs. While countries all over the planet are trying to give the public some access to its military arsenal - china aims to keep the public away.

        • blight_

          We’re not giving public access to the arsenal.

          The GPS coordinates for the missile fields aren’t published. All you really know is that there are N number of bases and their associated missile fields (Minot and a few others?); plus strategic bombers in Whiteman (B-2) and where-ever the B-1Bs are based (it escapes my mind), along with Guam and Diego (which have these nice shelters on Google Maps that could conceivably hold B-2’s).

          We pursue nuclear ambiguity when it comes to where our aircraft deployed nuclear weapons are stored in Europe and whether or not they are on board any particular aircraft carrier, especially when Japan is asking the question.

          We keep a number of SSBNs at sea carrying Trident ICBMs. It isn’t much discussed, but much of the real mechanics of what makes everything work is kept secret.

          I agree that China is moving to hide the quantity of their arsenal, but it’s not like there’s an Excel spreadsheet floating around that accurately gives American strategic retaliatory capability at any given moment. Same is true with the Russians, probably moreso. Russia’s capabilities aren’t discussed with accuracy and clear disclosure, especially in English-speaking publicly available media. I imagine the treaty mechanisms in place to ensure compliance between the US and Russia have accurate non-public counts for the warheads and weapon systems used by both sides.

          In any case, a tunnel system is already used to protect their aircraft, but it doesn’t do much to protect runways from being destroyed. Unless I’ve read the wrong information, the tunnel system for the PLAAF is just hangars and possibly bunkers for munitions. Building an underground complex big enough to launch aircraft would be an amazing technical feat, and difficult to hide from outsiders; though possible if given advance notice.

          • Guest

            I agree. Still the tunnel thing is the perfect example of how Chinese leaders do politics.

            ^^^the articel itself is as well just a piece of the puzzle.

          • blight_

            It might even be a load of bunk meant to divert our attention. They know we’ve studied the problem with respect to racetrack, and it might make more sense for them to build up a massive IRBM force and hide it in the rail system. If your cities have municipal subways, you could design subway car TELs and hide them underground in holding areas, then roll them out for the Big Day as required.

            Racetrack would also be hard to hide, and could be defeated with a well-targeted bunkerbuster attack. And if the racetrack is hardened, then that enhances the cost and reduces the overall size of the system that can be built economically.

  • wmcritter

    I think it is likely that they are trying to just force us to spend ourselves into oblivion, just like we did to the USSR to win the cold war.

    We have no secrets, China knows exactly how much an F-35, F-22, DDG-1000, and Ford class Carrier cost. And they know exactly how much debt we are in, and exactly what our revenue is, and exactly what shape our economy is in. We are on the brink already, I have no doubt China is happily nudging us closer and closer to the edge. When (not if) we enter the next Great Depression, they will be free to do whatever they want to whomever they want. And they can smile knowing that all of their posturing helped us spend our way over the cliff.

    • STemplar

      “we enter the next Great Depression, they will be free to do whatever they want to whomever they want.”

      Except where to sell products from their export driven economy and where to plow their currency surpluses to avoid skyrocketing their own currency and killing their aforementioned export driven economy, sure.

      • Riceball

        Not to mention that the Chinese economy is starting to slow way down, last report was that it was at 9+% when it needs 12 - 13% to sustain current growth levels and, most importantly, to avoid potential civil unrest at home. So, sure, China could be trying to force to spend more than we can afford but doing so would hurt them every bit as much as it would hurt us or more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/greysave Gregory Savage

    Funny I don’t here the Chinese complaining about violating the Japanese EEU (exclusive economic zone. They are always whinning about us violating theirs, all the while they violate our network integraty and Japans eez. I can’t effing stand a hippocrate. They have no argument to stand on. Keep up our own recon flights and remind them about Japan. For a country who supposedly wants peace, they sure seem itchy for a fight.

    • Guest A

      Your not going to “here” the Chinese do much of anything…

  • http://www.facebook.com/greysave Gregory Savage

    eez not eeu

  • EJ257

    I think it’s time Japan got some F-22s. SK too if they could afford it.

    • STemplar

      They need us to be willing to sell them F22s and they have diesel electric subs.

      • blight_

        I think EJ means “ROK” by SK (which would be Republic of Korea, or “South Korea”), not SSK (which is conventionally powered submarines)

        • STemplar

          Ahh, check. I don’t think you will see us green light F22 sales, but if we are talking a combined forces approach, if there were a conflict with China on one side and the US, Japan, and South Korea on the other, quite frankly both nation’s plans for their next fighters were they to go with Typhoons or Rafales or F35s or whatever, are going to be plenty to make life miserable for the Chinese.

          • blight

            Which is probably why they’ll take a page out of our playbook: target the airfields. The PRC probably takes extensive ADA out of the Soviet playbook, whereas Western nations aren’t well-known for their SHORAD. In such a case, the CBGs will assume paramount importance, as will Pacific bases out of quick striking range.

            I wonder if the ROK drills for enemy air attacks. It would be easy to assume the DPRK has no meaningful air force, for instance…

          • STemplar

            With both Japan and South Korea involved that’s not only a lot of targets but dispersed over a very large range. Not easy for the Chinese to address. I would agree that the carriers will confound that, particularly if the F35B works out and the Japanese and South Koreans deploy them from their vessels.

          • blight_

            Putting 35’s on the Dokdos and the Hyuga (and putative replacements) might make things interesting. I don’t know if it’d be enough to do much against the PRC, asides from pinpricks.

            Surprised the ROK and Japan don’t invest in drones, especially considering Japan’s strength in electronics.

          • STemplar

            I think it could be far more than pinpricks. The two classes certainly couldn’t embark many F35Bs but with the two nations planning on 6 or 7 total between them I think, they certainly could use them in a lily pad fashion to rearm and refuel F35Bs operating from field expedient land bases.

      • Chops

        Lets offer them the Kittyhawk and see if they are serious about stopping this Chinese intimidation.

        • tiger

          Nobody wants a tub that old or big. We do have some CG-47’s they could use.

          • blight_

            CG’s are old too. They’re Sprucans with structural problems.

            Japan already has their own DDGs with Aegis, as does ROK. They don’t need our second-hand equipment…but if we wanted to help them, we could just supply them with piles of TLAMs, give them GLCM designs (we pledged not to deploy them in eastern europe, and we can still do that if we don’t build them) along with Midgetman and a conventional BM design (again, as long as we don’t build them we can meet our treaty obligations with the Russians).

            A Japan and a South Korea with ground-mobile cruise missile launchers and conventional ballistic missiles would strike fear into any local power. Yes, no nukes (especially for Japan, a touchy subject) but the potential deterrent value of dropping submunitions into “military targets” in civilian areas should keep everyone friendly.

          • http://www.facebook.com/greysave Gregory Savage

            I don’t understand the treaty. Why is Russia building mobile ICBMs but we are not allowed to.

          • blight_


            The treaty eliminated missiles with range greater than 500km and less than 5k, taking out an entire chunk of strategic weapons.

            The Soviets retain the capability to launch ballistic missiles from massive TELs, and we never invested in it (except for Midgetman). The treaty also eliminated our GLCM system, and in exchange Western Europe was saved from many times the numbers of IRBMs aimed at European cities.

  • Eric

    Dissolving the charter that restricts Japan to a defensive only posture would be the fastest way to destablize the whole region. If Japan went offensive every regional power would begin an arms race 1st to counter JP then to counter each other.

    The Chinese would be 1st, but even the S Koreans fear a militarized Japan & would respond in kind. Those US troops we have in JP & SK do more to stabilize region then guard against China, they keep a serious group of industrialized neighbors fr/arming up & going after each other.

    The best thing the US could do would be to stop placating China & if China doesnt relax give some serious ‘consideration’ of giving JP the F-22. ‘Dangling’ an F-22 capable JP will give China serious cause for pause.

    • STemplar

      The “charter” is their constitution.

  • Josh

    We need to pressure china again,the middle east and the pacific need to be heavily patrolled and under surveillance constantly.
    because IMHO china and north Korea can go F@$% themselves…

    • tiger

      We don’t have the money or the forces anymore.

  • Jayson

    F22’s sold to JP, SK and TW would give China justification to explode their military budget ramp up their militarizations and make it a messy arms race.

    As always, they have numbers but not the tactics or modernization as us, no need to awaken their dormant potential as Germany did in the WW’s.

    If China makes an aggressive move, we’ll hit them hard and fast before they realize they made an oops maneuver.

    • tiger

      This pipe dream of more F22’s still burns for the fan club. Still only a dream.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1262570907 Jim Asbury

    The Chinese are fools if they think their neighbors are going to tolerate these continued and escalating incursions but have no fear, the Indians are just waiting for an opportunity to fight with the over bearing and unstable Chinese. Just tip them a little bit and their whole pile of cards will collapse.

    • jhm

      although i do wonder how the su30s will fight out…

  • jakoye23

    “All this is to ‘protect that which is ours,’ say Chinese leaders. The problem is, no one outside of China is certain just what Beijing’s power elite considers to be theirs.”

    The answer to that, pretty soon, will be “whatever we want”.

  • blinded1

    The only incidents that count are those when Chinese jet entered Japanese airspace. If like, Japan can send fightjet to intercept Chinese aircrafts in east or south Pacific 3000 miles away from its territory. Does that count?

  • Kski

    15 years latter in 2026, the Chicoms start WWIII. We are not taking the PRC seriously.

    • kski_idiot

      Are you an idiot? The US takes every move China makes EXTREMELY seriously. Try picking up a paper once in a while chief. Or should I say comrade?

  • itfunk

    Chinese money is pouring into Asia these days transforming relationships with China. The old cold war paradigm we are stuck with is simply becoming irrelevant.

    As one businessman told me - the US is like an old dog, it barks loudly at everything but you know it has had it’s day, and simply ignore it’s toothless snarl.

    • STemplar

      Would that be a businessman from a country that has artificially devalued its currency and created a real estate bubble by spending stimulus on infrastructure that isn’t being used? One that has backed itself into a corner by either buying treasuries from the country whose bark it should ignore or allow its own currency to sky rocket and slit its on export driven throat? One that has a growing demographics bubble that will make the baby boomers look like house guests that over stayed their welcome? Sure, toothless dog, snarl, whatever, good advice, yup, uh huh.

    • blight_

      Deng did a great job opening China for business (otherwise it would be compared to North Korea instead of South Korea). However, he did it at significant cost to his country (like Mao, he was willing to pay but he was smart and got a legit ROI). Turning his country into a sweatshop allowed for enough capital to flow in to start the investment cycle rolling (similar strategy used by ROK, but capital and aid came from sending troops to South Vietnam).

      However, future leaders have focused on core services like manufacturing for others with imported material at the expense of local R&D and a properly diversified economy. There are petroleum opportunities in the western deserts, along with mineral mining; but most development thinking is focused along the coastal regions. I’m not sure if China has properly prepared for the day it cannot be the sweatshop of the US and Europe when shipping costs and geopolitics make it a bad idea. It can be the sweatshop of Taiwan, Japan and Korea, but they need to develop local markets or develop the Chinese brand somewhere and turn it into a tribute market. There aren’t many places left for this kind of thing, which is why they are focusing on Africa.

      However, India is closer by proximity to both Africa and Europe, and Indian heavy industry is well-located for shipping goods to the Middle East, Europe and east Africa. The PRC needs to navigate these waters carefully, or this might be a temporary blip of greatness like before. China was doomed by complacency and hubris the first time, and should not allow it to happen again.

  • Qianlong

    Untill the 1800s almost every nation in east asia was “subjected” to the Chinese imperial tribute system. Now it’s 2011 and I don’t think the leaders in China have plans to reinstate the tribute system or implement some chinese version of the Monroe doctrine over east asia.

    Japan was also the 1st nation to break away from the tribute system and the 1st asian nation to modernise and to militarise and we all know how that ended.
    In the 20s and 30s it was Japan who was the big scarry enemy contesting US power in the pacific, now it’s China again.

    Now you know how the Chinese must have felt when one of their tribute nations said no to chinese imperial rule.

    and for those who can’t read between the lines, change Chinese rule into US rule and they’re you have it.

    and I do think the Koreans hate the Japanese way more than the Chinese.
    Japan is also china’s biggest lender since the 70s, going all over offensive on China and they won’t see their investments back.

    But it if China isn’t the big bad wolf of asia why would anyone buy all these expensive US weapon systems. In the end it’s all about money isn’t it?

    in the end china and japan will establish intercept protocols, just like after Hainan and Nato and the ussr during the cold war, because nobody really wants a real war.

  • Letsallbefriends

    I personally think the Chinese government should be concentrating on eliminating corruption and making sure that ordinary people get a fairer share of the country’s rising wealth.

    However, I understand why they’re conducting these flights. Within living memory for many Chinese, the USA, Japan and many European countries had trade concessions - effectively colonies - on the Chinese mainland. Within the living memory of even more Chinese, Japan invaded China and committed appalling atrocities.

    This happened because China was weak at the time. Now they are strong, you can’t be surprised that they are asserting themselves. They’re showing the rest of the world - and more importantly their own people - that they can’t be pushed around.

    China’s a big boy now. Get over it and get on with trying to sell more stuff in their markets. Economic strength is the ultimate foundation of security.

    • Mastro

      Fine- as long as teh Chinese military are on the same page as their “lets build factories” leaders.

      Its not clear the are.

      China should be reminded that Japan only spends 1% of their GNP on the military- and China might create a more muscular Japan- just like the Russkies created NATO with their Berlin/North Korea nonsense.

  • blight_

    The CG’s are old frames, and the related Spruances are already gone. If they’re going to be replaced by DDG’s (plans to reopen production have not been cancelled?) then we should be fine.

    I’m a little perplexed at why they would retire the CG’s built in the ’90s. They’re not retiring by age, as there are older hulls that they opted to keep in service.

  • http://www.oudin.org Oudin

    US is old dog in Asia, i think China will be super power in Asia. I think good idea if S korea, Taiwan and Japan joint together versus China, but i don’t thing will be happened cause a dog, wolf and heyna together versus tiger.

  • fullspec

    I don’t get it. So China now had the finance and the resources to advance their weaponry and defense capabilities. Is that really a bad thing for us? We’ve killed nearly a million Iraqis and Afghanis, sent nations into turmoil whilst trying to push our way of life and democratic freedoms into completely different cultures, and yet we now view this peaceful country that is China to be an enemy? This nation is too big to be ignored and we need to find ways to work together in a mutually beneficial way. Look at its strides in space systems, and as you mentioned in your article their advances in naval and stealth capabilities. This isn’t the same COMMUNIST state of the 70s, yet while they move forward into the future, we keep our heads stuck with a China that no longer exists.

    • STemplar

      Peaceful? Why the 2000ish missiles pointed at Taiwan? Why the naval aggressions with Vietnam and Japan? Pray tell why did their airplane run into our surveillance aircraft over international waters in 2001? Sailing between mainland China and Japan serves what peaceful purpose? Telling the US and India to say out of sea disputes in regards to international law? 70s? Remember a little thing in 1989 when they machine gunned and drive over college students with APCs for asking for outlandish stuff like freedom of speech and the press?

      Id’ say you primarily “don’t get it” because you’re not terribly well read or are just a troll.

      • STemplar

        meant to say sailing between mainland Japan and Okinawa.

      • PMI

        The ” killed nearly a million Iraqis and Afghanis” is a pretty big red flag.

        Virtually every reputable estimate comes in around a tenth of that….hell even the discredited Lancet study only claimed 600K or so.

    • PMI

      Peaceful country?!

      Tell that to Tibet, Vietnam, India and to a lesser extent the Phillipines, Malaysia & the ROK.

  • thatguy

    I say we dump NATO and find ourselves a new partner in crime so to speak. We dump to much money into building NATO countries who are to unwilling to assist us in our military operations. Let’s team up with a country who has the might to help us out when we ask for assistance.

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