U.S. military refurbishment of Iejima Auxiliary Airfield may increase aircraft training drills

U.S. military refurbishment of Iejima Auxiliary Airfield may increase aircraft training drills

U.S. military heavy machinery conducting repair work on Iejima Auxiliary Airfield in March on Iejima (photograph from a U.S. military website)

May 14, 2020 Ryukyu Shimpo

By Akira Manato


It came to light on May 13 that the U.S. Marine Corps has started refurbishment work on a runway and airstrips on Iejima Auxiliary Airfield in Ie Village, Okinawa. Construction is scheduled for completion by late June. On a website the Marine Corps uses to disseminate information, the purpose of these furbishments is described as being to maximize the island’s operational capabilities, indicating a policy of strengthening base functionality. After construction is completed there is a possibility that U.S. military aircraft training drills will increase and the military base burden, such as aircraft noise, will also increase. Ie Village, including the Ie Village Assembly, received an explanation about the refurbishment work, but the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) was not informed.

Knowledgeable persons have pointed out that the refurbishment may be linked to vertical takeoff and landing aircraft such as MV-22 transport Osprey and state-of-the-art fighter aircraft F-35.

The Okinawa Defense Bureau explained, as information from the United States, that this refurbishment is repair work to mend the runway and airstrips that have been damaged or have deteriorated. According to the explanation from the ODB and U.S. military, aside from flaking and repaving the surface of the runway (about 1,600 meters), multiple airstrips on the west side of the airfield are being repositioned, and a square landing zone having 183-meter sides is being built.

Photographs contributed to the Marine Corps’ public information website show the status of construction, which is underway using heavy machinery such as bulldozers. According to an explanatory note, the construction on this site started on February 19.

In February, the Defense Bureau provided information to Ie Village about the refurbishment. On May 8, leaders of the village and Defense Bureau, as well as the village assembly members, entered the site and received an explanation from the U.S. military. A U.S. military spokesperson said that the length and width of the runway would not change.

The OPG received inquiries from this newspaper and posed the questions to the Defense Bureau which in turn conveyed details about the construction to the OPG.

Since the landing zone that simulates the deck of an amphibious assault ship on Iejima was expanded at the end of 2018, vertical takeoff and landing F-35Bs are being flown and having effects such as the noise damage becoming tempestuous.

(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)

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