THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
May 15, 2019 at 17:00 JST
An Osprey flies over the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Camp Kisarazu in Chiba Prefecture in March. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
The Defense Ministry is moving to temporarily deploy Osprey transport aircraft to a Ground Self-Defense Force base in Chiba Prefecture from next March in spite of concerns raised by local residents.
The ministry plans to explain the deployment to local municipality government officials later this month.
It intends to deploy the Ospreys to Saga Airport in Saga, but has been unable to do so because of opposition from landowners that thwarted plans to build dedicated facilities.
The aircraft will be deployed at the GSDF’s Camp Kisarazu and move to Saga Airport once discussions on the issue make progress.
The deployment at Saga Airport is in line with the formation of the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade at the GSDF’s Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, in 2018 to tighten defense of remote southwestern islands such as the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
Aircraft parking aprons and hangars are expected to be built on the west side of Saga Airport so the brigade can quickly respond to an emergency.
By fiscal 2021, the Defense Ministry plans to procure 17 Ospreys from the United States.
Five Ospreys have already been paid for, and four are to be delivered in fiscal 2019.
Saga Governor Yoshinori Yamaguchi announced plans last August to accept the Ospreys, but opposition remains strong, particularly among fishery operators who own land around the airport.
For this reason, the ministry decided on the temporary deployment to Camp Kisarazu, which already serves as a maintenance hub for the U.S. military’s Ospreys.
But even in Kisarazu, local residents have expressed concerns about the safety record of Ospreys and fears the aircraft could be deployed permanently.
Ospreys are tilt rotor aircraft, a hybrid using helicopter and propeller plane technology. They can land and take off vertically.
The U.S. military deploys Ospreys at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture and Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo.
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