12 Ospreys scheduled to arrive in Iwakuni on Monday
The first 12 of 24 MV-22 Osprey aircraft from the U.S. are scheduled to arrive at the U.S. Marine Corps’ Iwakuni air base in Yamaguchi Prefecture on Monday, the Japanese government said Thursday.
The U.S. plan to deploy its first Osprey military transport aircraft to Japan, despite strong opposition from residents in Iwakuni and Okinawa—where the Osprey are bound for—over safety issues following two recent crashes.
The Ospreys arriving on Monday will be assembled and tested at Iwakuni before being deployed to the Futenma base at Okinawa, where they will replace the Marines’ aging CH-46 helicopters.
A Yamaguchi prefectural government official in charge of Iwakuni base affairs said the prefecture opposes the deployment unless the safety of the Ospreys can be ensured.
Okinawa Gov Hirokazu Nakaima has also said the planned deployment is unacceptable. Local approval is not essential for the project to go ahead, but the fracas is proving to be a thorn in the side for Tokyo.
An Air Force CV-22 Osprey crashed in June, injuring all five airmen aboard during a training mission at Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base. The Morocco crash, in April, left two Marines dead.
Because of the local concerns, no flight operations will be conducted in Japan until the results of the crash investigations by the Department of Defense are presented to the Tokyo government, which it expects to do in August.
The Pentagon said Osprey flights will continue as usual elsewhere and expressed confidence that Japan’s report will be positive.
“The MV-22 Osprey has an excellent safety record,” it said in a statement. “Basing the Osprey in Okinawa will significantly strengthen the United States’ ability to provide for the defense of Japan, perform humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations and fulfill other alliance roles.”
The $70 million Osprey is the U.S. military’s latest-generation transport aircraft. The Air Force and Marines operate a total of about 110 of them.
The aircraft combines airplane-like wings with rotors that allow it to take off and land like a helicopter. Its engines roll forward in flight, allowing it to fly twice as fast as a standard helicopter.