U.S. government to dispatch Osprey to Okinawa in July

May 12, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo

Several government officials revealed on May 11 that the U.S. government has notified Tokyo that it intends to dispatch the MV-22 Osprey vertical take-off and landing transport aircraft to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in a disassembled state by ship to the Naha Military Port in July, and then will implement test flights after the aircraft have been assembled. U.S. officials said that the Osprey will be deployed to Futenma Air Station in October after test flights and safety inspections have been carried out. But at the same time, the Japanese government has expressed reservations about the plans put forward by the U.S. government, stating, “It is difficult to accept.” With regard to test flights being implemented in a location close to a residential district and the Naha Air Port, Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima and Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga, who both oppose the deployment, again complained about the plan.

Washington plans to dispatch the first 12 Osprey aircraft in a disassembled state to the Naha Military Port. The U.S. military then intends to take about a month to assemble the aircraft within the confines of the port.

Some officials of the Ministry of Defense commented, “Test flights of the Osprey in Naha will cause major local protests, which will make the deployment even more difficult,” and others said, “Flights immediately following assembly are susceptible to glitches. We doubt that their safety can be guaranteed.”
The central government is expected to notify the prefectural government of the schedule and procedure for deployment on June 10 after the result of the prefectural assembly election has been announced. The Ministry of Defense intends to request people’s understanding of the deployment by making a brochure explaining the safety issues pertaining to the Osprey.

An Osprey aircraft crashing during a military exercise in Morocco in April has made many people in Okinawa question its safety. The cause of that accident has still not been revealed.

On May 11 at a press conference, Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka acknowledged that the Japanese government is in the final phase of negotiating with the United States on the deployment, saying, “We are definitely now at the stage of carefully explaining the situation to the Okinawan people.” With regard to the specific schedule and procedure for the deployment, Tanaka said, “We want to get final confirmation from the U.S. government as soon as possible.”

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)


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