April 26, 2006:
Chinese naval patrol aircraft are getting very aggressive around Japanese air space. So far this year, the Japanese Air Force has scrambled interceptors 107 times, to intercept Chinese Y-8 maritime patrol aircraft approaching Japanese air space. This happened only 13 times for all of 2005. The revealed something quite different. The Y-8 (Yunshuji-8) is a Chinese version of the Russian An-12 transport (which is very similar to the U.S. C-130). A number of these Y-8s have been operating in the Parcel and Sprately Islands for several years, conducting oceanographic surveys. The islands, disputed among a number of countries (China, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, etc.), are reportedly sitting on top of vast untapped oil reserves. Y-8 flights over the area are routinely monitored by several of the other nations with claims on the islands, but until recently the Chinese aircraft did not deliberately fly so close to Japanese territorial waters and airspace. The Chinese may simply be testing Japanese air defenses, which is one of the things naval patrol aircraft do.