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Japanese Fighters Intercept China’s High-Flying WZ-7 Drone for First Time

Japan MOD
Japan MOD

Chinese WZ-7 surveillance drones have appeared for two days in a row over the East China Sea, prompting Japanese fighter jets to scramble to intercept them on both occasions. This is the first time that the Japanese authorities have reported intercepts of the WZ-7, one of the most advanced drones in Chinese service, and it could be connected with the recent movements of the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning and its supporting task force in the same area. Either way, the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) drone, with its unique joined-wing design, may well become a more regular feature of Chinese activities in the wider region, providing capabilities loosely analogous to the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Yesterday, January 1, the Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) disclosed that a single WZ-7 — the type is also known as the 'Soaring Dragon' — had been active in the East China Sea as part of a mission that lasted from the morning to the afternoon, local time. According to the MoD’s statement, the drone appeared over the East China Sea, then passed through the Miyako Strait, which separates the main island of Okinawa and the Miyako Islands, which are also part of Okinawa Prefecture but which are located around 160 miles to the west. Once over the Philippine Sea, the drone flew south of Japan’s Sakishima Islands, further to the west, then reversed its course and headed back toward the main island of Okinawa.

In response, the Japanese MoD confirmed that fighters from the Southwestern Air Force of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, or JASDF, were scrambled to respond. Unconfirmed reports suggest that F-15J Eagle fighter jets were involved, which would make sense as these aircraft are based at Naha Air Base on the main island of Okinawa.

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