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Defense Ministry, SDF to ramp up air defenses for summit

The Yomiuri Shimbun

F-15 fighter jets will patrol the skies over the Group of Eight summit talks beginning Monday in Toyakocho, Hokkaido, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The measure, decided by the Defense Ministry and Self-Defense Forces, has been prompted by concerns that fighters scrambled from the Air Self-Defense Force's Misawa and Chitose bases, in Aomori Prefecture and Hokkaido, respectively, would be unable to intercept a suspicious aircraft entering the restricted zone over the summit venue in time.

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The Combat Air Patrol, or CAP, is extremely rare outside SDF exercises. In addition to using the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) and high-performance radar of Aegis-equipped destroyers, the ministry and SDF plan to ensure the highest possible air security during the summit.

Perched on the top of the 625-meter Mt. Poromoi, some distance from any big cities, the summit venue--the Windsor Hotel Toya--is seen as easier to secure.

However, its location in a remote area means it can easily be spotted from the air, making it vulnerable to an airborne attack. The government will impose a no-fly zone around the venue within a radius of about 46 kilometers--the nation's largest air restriction--during the three-day summit meeting, in line with the Civil Aeronautics Law.

The SDF has drawn up patrol plans that prioritize preventing suspicious aircraft from entering the no-fly zone in an effort to counter the possibility of a plane hijacked by terrorists being flown into the venue, the sources said.

Under the measures, the SDF plans to use the AWACS system and E2C surveillance aircraft, which normally are based at the ASDF's Hamamatsu Air Base in Shizuoka Prefecture, to conduct air patrols over an extended area covering Hokkaido and the Tohoku region.

Two Aegis destroyers, which are well equipped for detecting aircraft, and about 10 escort vessels will be mobilized to back up the patrol, according to the sources. One of the two Aegis ships, Kongo, successfully shot down a ballistic missile in a test off the coast of Hawaii in December. During the summit meeting, the Kongo will be deployed in case of a possible attack with a long-range ballistic missile.

The Misawa and Chitose air bases also plan to improve their ability to allow aircraft to scramble, while a Patriot Advanced Capability-2 missile will be placed at the ASDF Yakumo Sub Base, which is about 60 kilometers from the venue, to counter a possible short-range missile attack.

The last line of defense will be the CAP.

Two F-15 fighters and two F-2 support aircraft are expected to patrol in the skies around the summit venue.

Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba said all measures possible would be taken to strengthen security for the high-profile meeting.
(Jul 6, 2008)

Source: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/summit/20080706TDY01303.htm