US Marines to expand special-use airspace over Central Training Area in Okinawa

US Marines to expand special-use airspace over Central Training Area in Okinawa

Figure: The restricted airspace over Hansen and Schwab


July 17, 2014 Ryota Shimabukuro of Ryukyu Shimpo reports from Washington D.C.

The U.S. Marine Corps plans to raise the vertical limit of the restricted airspace for aircraft training over the Central Training Area in Okinawa. This training area is near Camp Hansen in Kin and Ginoza, and Camp Schwab in Nago. The Marine Corps reported the change in its “2025 Strategic Vision”, published by the Marine Corps Installation Pacific (MCIPAC) last year.

The report says, “MCIPAC will work with the Government of Japan to redesign Special-Use Airspace over the Okinawa Central Training Area to raise the vertical limit of the restricted airspace.” It also stresses, “This will provide additional vertical airspace to contain the ef-fects of small arms training which will allow for improved training.” Currently, the Gov-ernments of Japan and the United States authorise a restricted airspace for U.S. military training of up to 608 meters altitude over Schwab and 912 meters altitude over Hansen.

The report states that sea and air transport capabilities and capacities will be strength-ened through the expansion of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, the modernization of MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, the construction of the Futenma replacement facility in Henoko, Nago, and facilities on Guam.

According to the current reorganization plan, the U.S. Marine Corps will transfer KC-130 refuelling tankers from the Futenma base to Iwakuni. Therefore, the enhancement of the transportation capabilities in “2025 Strategic Vision,” suggests the alternative facility will have a port function. Some experts have pointed out that the planned new base in Henoko would have a port function, where an amphibious assault ship can dock alongside the pier, in addition to the helicopter base function that the Futenma base provides.

The governments have alleged that they will reduce the base burden on Okinawa through the realignment of U.S. forces. However, the report “2025 Strategic Vision” highlighted that the U.S. Marine Corps aims to enhance their capabilities through the construction of the Futenma replacement facility and the expansion of training airspace in the vicinity of the new base.

(English translation by T&CT)

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