Japan has reportedly enhanced its military surveillance capabilities in Okinawa with the launch of a squadron of four E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft amid rising territorial tensions with China.
Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera was cited by Kyodo News as saying that the launch comes as Japan faces a ‘dangerous situation’ as China continues attempts to ‘change the status quo by force and threaten the rule of law could trigger emergencies’.
In addition, Onodera told Jiji Press: "The squadron was newly established to firmly defend our country’s territorial land, sea and air."
The four aircraft that were transferred to the newly created squadron at the Naha Air Base are among the 13 E-2C Hawkeyes currently operated by the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) from the Misawa base in northern Japan.
The number of personnel at the air base is expected to be increased to about 130 by March 2015, according to the news agencies.
Japan also reportedly started the construction of a radar surveillance unit on its westernmost island of Yonaguni, despite protests from locals fearing the unit might make the island a target in any future conflict between Japan and China.
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Approximately 150 personnel are expected to be deployed at the unit, which will feature radar equipment to monitor ships and aircraft in the East China Sea, by March 2016, according to reports.
Speaking to Kyodo News, Onodera said the unit will fill a void of Self-Defence Forces presence in Japan’s remote south-western islands.
"It’s very important to take a solid surveillance posture on remote islands," Onodera added.
Japan has scrambled fighter aircraft against approaching Chinese aircraft 415 times in the year leading to March 2014, an increase from 306 times in the previous year, Jiji reported citing defence ministry statistics.
Image: Japan has created a new squadron of four E-2C Hawkeye aircraft in Okinawa to enhance surveillance against China. Photo: courtesy of Toshi Aoki – JP Spotters.