First landing of MV-22 Osprey in Okinawa amid strong protest from residents

First landing of MV-22 Osprey in Okinawa amid strong protest from residents

At 11:46am on October 1, amid strong opposition by the Okinawan people, MV-22 Osprey vertical take-off and landing transport aircraft landed at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. Okinawa International University can be seen in the rear left of the photograph. (Photograph taken by Takaya Kinra in the Kyuna district of Ginowan.)


October 2, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo

On October 1, the U.S. Marine Corps began to deploy MV-22 Osprey vertical take-off and landing transport aircraft to MCAS Futenma. At 7:11am, two MV-22s that had been temporarily at MCAS Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture, landed at Futenma, and by 11:47am a total of six aircraft had set down at the base. On October 2, three more MV-22s arrived at Futenma, so now nine MV-22s have been deployed in Okinawa.

On September 9, a mass rally was held in Okinawa in which about 103000 people protested against the deployment of the Osprey. A sit-in protest has also continued in front of the gates of the Futenma base. The governments of the United States and Japan have forcibly deployed the MV-22s in Okinawa despite strong protests from the residents. This hard-line approach will provoke a backlash from the people.

The U.S. Marines Corps in Okinawa commented that its MV-22s and crews will begin the routine training, starting flying as early as October 2. In the interest of safety, the United States and Japan agreed that the scope for the MV-22s operating in the helicopter-mode with rotors facing upwards is to be limited to airspace above the base because flight in helicopter-mode is more likely to lead to an accident. However, flights in helicopter-mode have already been confirmed as occurring over populated areas in Ginowan City. The two governments stated that the aircraft will fly over the sea as much as possible, but they have already flown above the Kunigami Municipal Office, so the Marine Corps has operated in a manner contrary to the safety-oriented approach that the governments promised.

Governor Hirokazu Nakaima observed the MV-22s’ flight with Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima from the municipal office building. At a press conference, the governor said, “If the government does not create a situation in which the anxiety of the local residents is completely dispelled, we cannot say that the Okinawan people will accept this airplane that has a history of crashes.” He went on to say, “The government should move the aircraft to another airport in Japan as soon as possible.” The governor also mentioned the relocation of the facilities at Futenma base outside of the prefecture. He will request an appointment with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in order to directly request the withdrawal of the MV-22s.

Naha mayor Takeshi Onaga, who was a co-leader of the Okinawan People Mass Rally, members of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly and local residents participated in the rally that started from 7:00am in front of the Nodake gate of the Futenma base. There were screams of anger from the participants at 11:10am when one of the group reported that the first of the MV-22s had landed the base. When they saw the planes flying over one after another, they yelled, “Osprey, Go back to the United States,” and “Don’t trample on Okinawa.”

A noise level of 90.2db was recorded when the Osprey passed over the Ojana Community Center in Ginowan. According to a survey carried out by experts, this is about 10db louder than the noise from the current model CH-46 helicopter, which in terms of annoyance factor is equivalent to nearly twice that of the CH-46.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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