Oct 20, 2014
Japan Has Doubled The Number Of Times It's Scrambled Fighter Jets Against Russia Over The Past 6 Months
The increased activity in Japan's north also comes as the armed forces pivot their focus southwards towards China.
According to government figures, 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, and the total is on course to surpass figures seen during the last fiscal year.
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.
Hokkaido is a Japanese island to the north of the country's main land mass, and it lies close to four smaller islands which are claimed both by Japan and Russia.
The territorial dispute has prevented Japan and Russia from concluding a formal peace treaty and helps explain Japan's north-facing military posture, with mechanized infantry divisions and tank brigades set up to repel a feared Soviet invasion.
That task is being complicated by Japan's decision to join Western sanctions against Moscow for its annexation of the Crimea peninsula in March.
Russian aircraft often fly a circuitous route around the long Japanese archipelago.
Countering them are fighter jets, including two squadrons of Japanese F-15 fighter jets, around 40 aircraft, at Chitose air base, less than 200 miles from the Russian border.
Incursions in Japan's northern air zone in the latest six months rose to 189 from 110 a year earlier.