Japan air force intercepts Chinese ASW aircraft

Japanese fighters intercepted Chinese anti-submarine aircraft over the East China Sea last week, marking the first known occasion that this type of Chinese aircraft has been encountered.

In an announcement on March 23, the Joint Staff of Japan’s Defense Ministry announced that its fighter jets had scrambled to intercept a pair of Chinese Y-9 patrol aircraft. A photo of the Chinese aircraft released by the ministry shows it was a Shaanxi KQ-200 anti-submarine/maritime patrol aircraft with its distinctive magnetic anomaly detector boom used for detecting submarines. The MAD boom is mounted in the aircraft’s rear fuselage and is plainly visible.

A map released by the ministry indicated that the Chinese aircraft flew about 200 miles west of the Japanese island of Okinawa and north of the disputed Senkaku Islands.

The serial number painted on the aircraft’s vertical tail indicates it belongs to the 1st Naval Air Division of the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The division, part of the PLAN’s East Sea Fleet, reportedly received its first KQ-200 in 2018, and the craft is said to be based out of Dachang airbase located in the metropolis of Shanghai.

A satellite photo from April 2018 shows two KQ-200s, with their distinctive MAD booms visible, parked at the base. The flight route of the intercepted aircraft provided by the Japanese Defense Ministry shows the aircraft coming from and returning in the general direction of Shanghai.

The last JASDF scramble against a Y-9JB aircraft took place on February 23, which constituted the first intercept of a Chinese aircraft following an eight-week hiatus. Another intercept of a PLAAF military aircraft near the Japanese islands occurred on December 27, when JASDF also intercepted a Y-9JB aircraft. A preceding intercept mission took place on December 14.

Additionally, Japanese fighters also conducted scrambles against PLAAF and People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) aircraft on November 26 and on October 29. Furthermore, intercepts occurred on August 29 and July 27, as well as in June when a Y-9JB, flying through international airspace between Okinawa and Miyako, was intercepted.