[Editorial] Do not fly flawed military aircraft over Okinawa

May 29, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

A U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter belonging to Kadena Air Base crashed in the Pacific about 115 kilometers east of Okinawa. The Okinawa Fisheries Cooperative has fish aggregating devices in the water around the so-called “Area Hotel-Hotel” airspace and waters designated as a training area, where the F-15 went down. Fishing boats were in the water around that area. The crash could have damaged them and an F-15 crash on land in Okinawa could have caused a cataclysmic disaster.

How much longer will the U.S. and Japanese governments continue to expose Okinawans to such dangers?

A F-15 from Kadena crashed in 2006. An aircraft belonging to the Naha Air Base of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force crashed in 2011. The U.S. Air Force has stationed F-15s at Kadena Air Base since 1979 with nine crashes involving ten aircraft in the 34 years since then. Calculations indicate that F-15s have gone down once every 3.7 years. Is the cause mechanical failure or human error? Either way, we assert that the F-15 poses a risk to the people of Okinawa.

Okinawa has experienced various military aircraft crashing in the past.
Besides this F-15 crash, U.S. military aircraft have gone down in Okinawa 44 times since Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese sovereignty in 1972. That means that military aircraft have crashed more than once every year.

By the end of December, 2012 a total of 540 aircraft-related accidents had occurred, killing 34 people. We do not see this as a normal situation.
On this occasion, the F-15 went down in the waters off Okinawa, causing no harm to Okinawan people. However, in the past U.S. military aircraft have crashed on Okinawa several times.

On June 30, 1959, a U.S. F-100 fighter from Kadena Air Base crashed onto Miyamori Elementary School in Ishikawa, killing 18 people including young children.
A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53D Sea Stallion heavy assault transport helicopter based at Futenma Air Station also crashed into a building at Okinawa International University. Miraculously, the accident did not injure or kill any students or local citizens.

Last October, the U.S. military deployed 12 MV-22 Osprey vertical take-off and landing transport aircraft to Futenma Air Station. The Japanese government ignored the people’s will and forced this through despite the Okinawa Governor and the heads of all the municipalities in the prefecture having opposed the deployment.
There have been seven crashes by Osprey during the period from its developmental stages to last July. When a total of 36 people have been killed in these crashes it is difficult to dispel doubts that the Osprey is flawed.

The U.S. and Japanese governments now plan to force through the deployment of another squadron of 12 Osprey to Okinawa this summer.

Rules and safety policies have been put in place by the two countries, but the U.S. military does not abide by them. Nevertheless, the U.S. and Japanese governments continue to put dangerous aircraft into the sky over Okinawa. How can they guarantee the safety of the local citizens?

We demand that the two governments indefinitely ground all military aircraft that we see as having safety issues. This includes the Osprey. Otherwise the people of Okinawa cannot live safely.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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