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Japanese pilots rise to meet challenges from overseas

TOKYO (majirox news) — Japanese Air Self-Defense Force pilots have been busy this year, launching “scramble” interception sorties 335 times in the nine months from April through December last year.

The majority of these were launched in response to Russian moves (175), but there was a growth in sorties over the East China Sea as a counter to increased Chinese activity in the region of the disputed Senkaku Islands, controlled by Japan, but claimed by both Taiwan and mainland China (143 sorties).

No Chinese aircraft violated Japanese airspace, but the number of scrambles has risen dramatically since March 2011 – an increase of 96 sorties in 2010, and is on course to double the number for the previous 12 months

These statistics come as Japan prepares to update its fleet of fighter aircraft to the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter (whose long-term future in the United States appears to be in some doubt) at a cost for the initial four aircraft to be purchased next year at a cost of 9.9 billion yen ($126 million) each.

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