Iejima “LHD deck” airstrip completed for use by U.S. military next month

November 23, 2018 Ryukyu Shimpo

Expansion work on the airstrip simulating an LHD deck, a flight deck of an amphibious assault ship, at Iejima Auxiliary Airfield was recently finished. The U.S. Marine Corps explained to Ie Village and the Okinawa Defense Bureau that Marine Corps F-35B vertical takeoff stealth fighter aircraft and CH-53 heavy-lift transport helicopters will begin training there in December. This is the first time that the U.S. has revealed which aircraft models will be used on the airstrip.

According to Ie Village, a person in charge at the U.S. Marine Corps visited Mayor Hideyuki Shimabukuro on November 20, informing him that extension work had been completed and about the operations set to start in December. U.S. officials explained that the F-35B, “will be used as a successor to the AV-8B Harrier II ground-attack aircraft,” a model of aircraft that had used the airstrip previously. Meanwhile, Ie Village personnel commented, “We recognize that the Harrier and the F-35 are different models of aircraft, and we are concerned about the burden increase.” A village representative said, “I would like to seek a more thorough explanation through the Okinawa Defense Bureau.”

On November 21, the U.S. provided similar information to the Okinawa Defense Bureau. In regard to aircraft used on the airstrip, the Bureau commented, “F-35B is included.” The Bureau stressed, “We asked [the U.S. military] to exercise maximum consideration for the local community when training.”

The “LHD deck” airstrip is a recreation of the flight deck of an amphibious assault ship, imitating features such as the control facilities and departure and arrival markings of the real thing.
Ie Village had requested several times that construction be cancelled because, “there is liable to be increased risk.” F-35Bs are currently stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

It is expected that vertical landing and short distance takeoff training will be conducted on the airstrip.

(English translation by T&CT and Megumi Chibana) 

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